Case Studies

The future of international Science assessment

In early 2020, we won a competitive tender with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to develop the Science framework for its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2025*.


PISA examines students’ knowledge of mathematics, reading, and science and provides a comprehensive international assessment of the skills students need to further academic education before entering the workforce. Conducted every three years using sampling from more than 80 participating countries, PISA is widely acknowledged as the benchmark for evaluating education systems across the world. In 2018, it saw 600,000 students across 79 countries and economies take part, representing 32 million 15-year olds globally. Similar or greater numbers are expected in 2025.

The framework developed by OUP will help to define the tests and questionnaires used in PISA 2025, determining what is measured and how findings will be reported. The objectives of this will be:

  • focusing on how Science is applied in a real-life context and within levels of scientific literacy
  • ensuring the framework is relevant and reflects the current state of academic research in Science and science education; and
  • making links between the content from previous cycles of PISA and the understanding of Science that young people will need in the future.

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*The new framework was originally planned for 2024 but was rescheduled due to coronavirus

Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary tenth edition

In early 2020, we launched the tenth edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD), OUP’s landmark advanced-level dictionary for English-learners.


The original concept for the OALD came from English teacher and writer Albert Sidney Hornby (1898-1978). After noticing his students in Japan were less confident in the speaking and writing of English than they were in understanding English literature, he realized learners needed a different kind of dictionary. This saw him pioneer a revolutionary approach to teaching English, which would later lead him to compile the Idiomatic and Syntactic English Dictionary (ISED)—the predecessor to OALD.


OUP discovered the ISED in 1939, when it was referenced in a journals submission to our Bombay office in India. The receiving editor realized the importance of a potential international version of this dictionary, and so began the journey toward the OALD that was eventually launched by OUP in 1948.

The dictionary has evolved throughout its different editions over the last 72 years, but has always remained true to Hornby’s principles. This is also true for this year’s tenth edition which spans five print versions, two apps, and an online version, each with fully updated and modernized words, phrases, and meanings—more than 1,000 in the print dictionary and 2,000 in the app and online—as well as digital codes to replace the old CD and DVD discs.


The OALD continues to be a landmark title used by students around the world, and it received nearly 257 million website views and 540,000 app downloads in 2019/20 alone. Its sales also fund the Hornby Educational Trust which supports the higher education of teachers in the UK.


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MyMaths upgrade

2019 saw the completion of a three-year project to overhaul and re-launch our digital maths platform MyMaths, with a refreshed brand identity and new technology to improve interactivity and accessibility.


MyMaths is one of our most established digital education products and reached 5.5 million learners across the UK and internationally in 2019 alone. It supports the complete Maths curriculum from primary right up to the end of secondary, and remains the leading digital Maths product in the UK Secondary market with one in every two schools subscribing. Its content is created by teachers for teachers and delivers learning in the most effective way that is technically possible.


Since its upgrade, MyMaths now demonstrates more significant time-saving benefits for teachers, and works on any device with content that is not constrained by fixed templates. This makes lessons rich, bespoke, and unlike any other product in the market. Each lesson is matched to an accompanying series of homework questions and uses unique technology to generate a different question each time so that students can truly benefit from unlimited practice to develop their confidence and fluency in Maths.

‘I’m very much of the view that children will need to learn in different ways to be able to achieve their best. MyMaths is invaluable with that, especially when you don’t have a lot of human resource to work with different groups. It’s almost like having another teacher in the classroom.’

Sally Smith, teacher at Old Town Primary School, Hebden Bridge, UK


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Digital transformation in China

An early meeting with the team from New Oriental Education & Technology Group

As our markets in China are seeing more technological advancement, we are implementing a digital partnership strategy that focuses on transformation and online professional development. In support of this, we entered into several significant new partnerships with leading Chinese internet technology companies.


In September, we partnered with China’s number one audio sharing platform Ximalaya to licence a complete series of our popular Oxford Reading Tree (ORT) content. With Ximalaya’s 70 per cent market share, we were able to significantly extend our reach, with our ORT courses attracting 10,000 new subscribers within the first three months of launch. The partnership will also enable us to further develop our ORT portfolio and support our customers in new and innovative ways.


As the way people learn evolves, schools and students are seeking better quality educational content with many private learning centres across China upgrading their course offerings with more up-to-date and innovative resources.


As such, we collaborated with leading education company Kid Castle to upgrade their offering with tailored content from our flexible Bright Ideas English learning courses. The resource includes both digital and print content which uses ‘big questions’ to challenge students and promote development of skills such as critical thinking, while also linking the classroom with the 'real world' and encouraging idea sharing through communication and collaboration.


We also agreed a long-term partnership with New Oriental Education & Technology Group whose mission is to ‘inspire Chinese students of all ages to improve their lives and expand their horizons through a lifelong commitment to learning’. The partnership licenses customized content from our Living Oxford English series to New Oriental’s new English curriculum for pre-school to primary. New Oriental currently serves 95 schools, more than 1,200 learning centres, 13 bookstores, and 35,000 teachers across 83 cities in China. Our content offers different learning levels for each grade to meet the needs of students of mixed learning abilities.


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