Language teaching pilot 'working'
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sun Jul 17 19:35:14 UTC 2005
>>From BBC News,
Language teaching pilot 'working'
A pilot scheme promoting modern languages in primary schools is proving
successful, Ofsted inspectors say. "Pathfinder" projects in 19 areas of
England have created a "significant expansion" in the teaching of
languages, the inspectors said. The government wants modern language
lessons to be available to all primary schools by the end of the decade.
Last week, a CILT national language centre report warned a lack of
language skills was damaging the UK's economy. Ofsted has been examining
the impact of pilot schemes designed to encourage the teaching of modern
languages in primary schools.
Its report says that 43% of the schools in these regional projects are
teaching modern languages to older pupils in primary schools - and it
commends the quality of teaching. There have been longstanding concerns
about language learning - with a declining number of students taking
subjects such as French at A-level and at university.
Higher education funding councils have warned that language departments in
universities are "vulnerable" and might need to be concentrated in
national centres. Learning modern languages also ceased to be compulsory
after the age of 14 in September. And there have been repeated warnings
from industry about the lack of language skills in UK firms.
The government's response has been to try to raise interest in languages
at an earlier age, with plans in the next five years for all seven to
11-year-olds to have lessons in at least one modern language. The
pathfinder schemes have been testing how this might be put into practice -
and the initial findings from inspectors are that this is proving a
Oakthorpe Primary School in Enfield, north London, has been teaching
German to year 4 pupils for the last two years. The school incorporates
language learning into everyday school life through songs, taking the
register in German and writing stories, as well as using the language in
many other subjects. It says it aids the development of various skills,
including literacy and information and communication technology, as well
as giving them greater cultural awareness.
Its head teacher, Geof Cumner-Smith, said this integration enabled
children to see German as a living language. He said pupils found it
exciting, in contrast to his experiences of children learning languages at
secondary schools. "Children's confidence has increased, and they have
become more technically aware as we use the internet and
video-conferencing to aid learning."
The school provides additional clubs in French, Italian and Spanish, and
weekend clubs in Turkish and Greek, two languages which some children at
the school commonly hear at home. Mr Cumner-Smith said the commitment to
learning languages included the whole school, and involved many teachers.
Feedback from parents and children alike had been "overwhelmingly
positive", according to the school's modern foreign languages co-ordinator
"We've had great support from parents, and the children are delighted,"
"They don't have any fear of learning to speak a language."
'Long way to go'
David Bell, chief inspector of schools, said the progress in teaching
modern languages was "very good news". However, he added: "There is still
a long way to go and schools must develop links between primary and
secondary schools so that progress made is not lost when pupils move to
secondary school." Once children join secondary schools they will receive
a very different form of language teaching, and may be treated as novices
when they are not, said Mr Cumner-Smith.
Oakethorpe Primary tried try to maintain a dialogue with secondary schools
to ensure children retained the benefits of their early language learning.
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