Cambridge English: Young Learners exams are becoming increasingly popular in our country. It is estimated that the priority treatment of English in the Spanish educational system during the last 15 years has been a decisive factor for this (remember that the YLE exams were created in 1997); while until not long ago the usual thing was to start with the First, already during adolescence or youth, today many children between 7 and 12 years old prepare for official exams.
In this way, many Spanish schools currently offer specific classes to prepare students for these exams. How is this initiative working , and how do the schools themselves and their teachers perceive it? This is what the University of Cambridge has proposed to find out through the study that we present to you ; It consists of a series of interviews, lasting between 20 and 40 minutes, carried out with 22 teachers from different schools in Navarra, in which they are asked their opinion about the exams. This work was carried out by the University of Cambridge during 2014; We found it interesting to analyze it on the International House Madrid blog, although there are no links between the study and our institution.
Given that the study is in English and is very extensive – here you have it complete in PDF -, we will try to summarize its conclusions and provide information to those who have doubts about the advisability of examining young students.
Reactions in favor of its implementation:
– Many teachers agree that it gives a positive image to the public , especially to parents. The fact of adopting the Young Learners: English exams reinforces that the center is perceived as bilingual or “international”.
– Many of the interviewees consider positive that schools receive external validation , and point out that the Cambridge exams satisfy that need. The fact that the YLE exams are approved according to the CEFR is another point in favor, since it guarantees that students are subjected to official tests of proven reliability.
– Another important asset, in the opinion of the teachers, is that the YLE tests assess students’ aptitudes in the four basic sections (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and are more appropriate than most local tests, although some noted that more emphasis should be placed on oral interaction tests. Many of them perceive the exam as the first step for children to successfully enter bilingual learning.
– The exam format is simple and teachers have no problem making it understandable to children; They have also highlighted that the topics covered in the tests are adapted to the age of the students and are usually interesting to them.
Reactions against its implementation:
– The greatest difficulties encountered in the implementation of the exams in public schools include: lack of permanent staff , the outlay involved for parents and the feeling of loss of freedom felt by teachers who must offer exam preparation.
– Some professors in the English Department were uncomfortable with the idea of proposing a “private exam”; they perceived it as a “commercial test” whose main purpose is to raise money, and it is something they perceived as both a threat to their pedagogical methods and an imposition .
As can be seen in the data collected in the complete report , the overall balance is very positive , and favorable opinions are the norm compared to the rather small number of those who find disadvantages in the implementation of these exams. However, in the study itself, the University of Cambridge points out that the size of the sample of teachers interviewed and the fact that the study was carried out in Navarra prevents its conclusions from being easily extrapolated to all of Spain.
Some of the objections that professors have regarding the exam may originate from insufficient explanation of the nature of the tests ; for example, those that allude to their private or commercial nature, since several of the organizations that carry them out are non-profit . Given that the implementation of these exams is something relatively new, at the University of Cambridge they consider that it is natural that some small conflicts or misunderstandings may arise, but everything suggests that most of them may be temporary problems that are easily solved .
International House Madrid is a Cambridge examination center with Platinum category. In this link you will be able to see the next YLE exam dates , and also find the most suitable courses so that your children can take one with guarantees of success.