YALS supports five forums on monitoring student achievement using Cambridge Exams

Aleksandra Sekulić holding a forum on the use of Cambridge English Exams in Užice

Reported by Aleksandra Sekulić

In the academic year 2013-14, Cambridge English (Cambridge English Language Assessment – former Cambridge ESOL, and Cambridge University Press) and YALS got accreditation from the Ministry of Education for 5 teacher events i.e. teacher gatherings on the topic of ”Cambridge English exams aimed at monitoring your students’ achievement in accordance with the CEFR”. The events were also supported by ELTA, and they were targeted both at state school and private language school teachers.

The sessions were held during April and May in Leskovac, Sombor, Uzice and Valjevo, while the one scheduled for Zajecar had to be postponed due to the floods. At each of the events there were between 22 and 30 teachers present, and all of them got a certificate of attendance with 1 point for their professional development. The presenters were Aleksandra Sekulic, EL teacher and Cambridge English (Language Assessment) Consultant for Serbia, and Jelka Bogic, a CUP representative. Also, the teachers from private language schools who have had experience with these exams were invited to share this experience and their opinion regarding the exams.

The participants had an opportunity to learn everything they needed to know about Cambridge English exams – YLE, Key (KET), Preliminary (PET), First (FCE) and First for Schools (FCE for Schools), and Advanced (CAE) – their form, levels, types of tasks, the way each of them tests language skills and knowledge, their validity and recognition around the world, and their relevance for the students in Serbian schools. Moreover, the participants got some ideas on how to incorporate these exams into their curriculum – both in state schools and private language schools in courses which are not necessarily aimed at preparing students for taking these exams. Last but not least, the participants were shown where to find the materials and support (both on and off line) needed for exam preparation.

All the teachers were given handbooks with the tests suitable for the age group they were working with (YLE for lower primary, Key and Preliminary for upper primary, and Key, Preliminary, First/First for schools and Advanced for secondary).

At the end of the event the teachers were asked to fill in the official feedback form issued by the Ministry of Education for seminars, and they mainly gave high marks to the whole event. The state school teachers liked the idea of having some internationally recognised tests/exams to use as benchmarks or a tool to monitor their students’ achievement and progress. Lots of them said they were going to try these tests out with their students, and maybe even start promoting the exams in their schools. As far as private language school teachers are concerned, most of them are already familiar with these exams and they prepare candidates for these exams on a regular basis. However, some of them haven’t promoted some of these exams so far – such as YLE, Key or Preliminary – and some would like to change that and offer a wider range of Cambridge English exams to their students.

Our plan for this school year is to hold the teacher gathering in Zajecar which was postponed, and to get the accreditation from the Ministry for several more gatherings like that, maybe in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis or any other place that shows interest for an event like that. We hope that even more teachers will attend these events, and that in the future the teachers in state schools, as well as in all private language schools, will start using and promoting these exams as some kind of criterion for what their students should achieve at a certain age.