[EDLING:1004] School policy 'undervalues' community languages

Francis M Hult fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Fri Sep 23 15:06:20 UTC 2005

By way of lg-policy...

> School policy 'undervalues' community languages
> Donald MacLeod
> Thursday September 22, 2005
> Guardian Unlimited
> While the decline of language learning in British schools is being
> lamented, the growth of community languages spoken by ethnic minorities is
> an "overlooked asset", says a report published today. Mainstream primary
> and secondary schools offer at least 19 languages, either as part of the
> curriculum or as after-hours provision, according to Cilt, the National
> Centre for Languages. And ethnic minority communities make their own
> provision for teaching 55 different languages across the UK.
> Nearly 40,000 students gained a qualification in a community language this
> year (the largest numbers in Urdu, Chinese, Irish Gaelic and Arabic) but
> few providers considered these skills as valuable for students' future
> careers. The report argues that learning a community language has the same
> educational benefits as learning French or German.
> "Many of the benefits which modern languages specialists recognise in
> students who gain competence in languages, such as French, German or
> Spanish, apply equally to those who speak community languages, such as
> Urdu, Chinese or Greek. "These include increased awareness of and interest
> in the wider world, greater confidence in communicating in a range of
> different contexts, enhanced understanding of cultural differences and a
> willingness to engage with people and ideas from elsewhere in the world.
> "These are personal qualities of value in themselves, but also are clearly
> of considerable worth in a business context. A key issue for the UK in the
> age of globalisation is which languages are likely to be of most benefit
> for the economy, for trade, and for international relations in the 21st
> century. Some of the most widely spoken and studied community languages -
> Urdu,Turkish, Chinese Bengali and Arabic - are likely to be on that list,"
> said the report. The research, led by Joanna McPake of Stirling
> University, said studies of intelligence showed bilingual children
> performed better than their monolingual peers in a range of tests and
> children who learned a community language at school, like Gaelic in
> Scotland, did at least as well - if not better - than children who spoke
> only English.
> Isabella Moore, the director of Cilt, said: "This summer, business leaders
> drew attention to our country's need for capability in a wider range of
> languages. Yet 9% of our secondary school children and over 10% of primary
> children already speak another language at home, and many more have one in
> their family background. "By encouraging students to develop their
> existing knowledge we will be building up an important skills base, as
> well as raising educational achievement."
> Dr McPake said schools did not always appreciate the value of maintaining
> and developing language skills other than English. "Both mainstream and
> complementary schools underestimate the practical value of other languages
> for students' future careers." The report noted widespread concern about
> the decline of languages in British schools and universities. But, it
> said: "The UK has a major linguistic asset not currently sufficiently
> recognised in language policy and planning: children from multilingual
> communities across the UK who are growing up with a knowledge of
> languages, such as Panjabi, Polish, Somali or Yoruba, in addition to
> English.
> "Some of these children study their languages at school and many more in
> complementary classes after school or at weekends." The study found that
> in Scotland, at least 11,000 children between five and 18 speak at least
> 104 languages. In Wales, at least 8,000 children speak at least 98
> languages and in England, at least 702,000 children speak at least 300
> languages.
> EducationGuardian.co.uk  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
> http://education.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5291770-110908,00.html

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