A British Language Policy Proposal

ronkinm at georgetown.edu ronkinm at georgetown.edu
Fri Jun 7 23:39:20 UTC 2002

[From The Times of India]

Head for British schools
to learn Punjabi

PTI [ FRIDAY, JUNE 07, 2002  4:48:59 PM ]

LONDON: A proposal to teach Punjabi and Swahili as a compulsory
language instead of French and German in some of the British
schools has been mooted at the annual conference of the National
Association of Head Teachers here.

Under the proposal, they are urging the government to remove the
requirement in the national curriculum that children between the
ages of 11 and 14 study at least one European foreign language.

The linguistic abilities of large numbers of ethnic minority and
refugee children were being ignored because they had to learn
another European language as well as mastering English, they said.

The motion was unanimously passed on Thursday after delegates from
London described their pupils' mastery of three or four languages.

Though there is nothing to stop them from learning and taking exams
in their own languages, at present they must do so in addition to
a modern European language, usually French and Germany [sic] but
increasingly Spanish.

The union voted for the government to promote the status of Asian
and African languages "and to encourage their study as a qualification
in addition to or instead of languages of European origin".

Tim Benson, head of Nelson Primary School in Newham, East London,
said that the "nationalistic curriculum failed to recognise the
staggering array of linguistic abilities and competencies" in
schools such as his, where the pupils spoke more than 40 languages.

The linguistic dexterity of families speaking an array of languages
such as Gujarati, Urdu, Albanian and Somali were celebrated in his
school but the "awesome achievements" of children mastering three
or four languages were barely recognised by the education system.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said that it was
looking at ways of encouraging language learning and recognising
children's proficiency in them, but that it was likely to favour
adding new ones, rather than taking any away.


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