UK: Education secratary orders review of school language policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Oct 13 12:31:17 UTC 2006

Johnson orders review of school language policy

Alexandra Smith
Thursday October 12, 2006

The education secretary, Alan Johnson, today ordered a review of the
government's controversial policy of allowing 14-year-olds to drop
language classes. Mr Johnson said he had asked Lord Ron Dearing to review
the languages policy and report back to the government with his
preliminary findings before Christmas. Mr Johnson said Lord Dearing had a
"long distinguished record" in education and previously headed a major
review of the national curriculum and tests. The review follows an
admission by Mr Johnson last month that the government was "wondering"
whether it had made the right decision when it scrapped compulsory
language classes for 14 to 16-year-olds. Modern languages were dropped as
a compulsory subject for 14 to 16-year-olds in 2002, despite protests from
teachers and other organisations with an interest in promoting language.

This year's GCSE results reflected a fall in the number of teenagers
choosing to study a modern language. The number of candidates studying
French fell by 13.2% compared with last year, while those teenagers opting
for German fell by 14.2%. There was also a small fall in students choosing
GCSE Spanish. Mr Johnson said: "We are committed to encouraging young
people to embrace languages whilst recognising they should be offered
flexibility in what they study to inspire them to continue learning. "We
are already investing heavily in the National Languages Strategy and have
introduced languages at primary schools to encourage more children to
learn a foreign language. But we want to see what more can be done to
boost language learning in all schools." Lord Dearing will start work
immediately and deliver an interim report before Christmas and a final
report by the end of February.

He said: "As with my work on the review of the National Curriculum, I will
start from scratch, wanting above all to listen and learn. "I believe the
answers to the questions we have about the recent decline in modern
languages are out there in the education community and it is my job to
find them. I will seek their help in identifying the best ways forward,
looking at best practise and innovative ideas, what works and what
doesn't, and holding a series of mini conferences across the country." Mr
Johnson said the government was investing 115m through the languages
strategy over the next three years to encourage more young people to study
languages. The shadow schools minister, Nick Gibb, welcomed the review.

"The fall in the numbers studying French and German at GCSE has been
dramatic in recent years as a consequence of removing the compulsion to
study a foreign language to the age of 16. We believe strongly that in
this global economy, young people should be given the skills to learn and
acquire another language. Failure to do so puts our country and our
economy at a major disadvantage internationally," he said. "We hope,
therefore, that the government will accept the Conservative amendment to
the education bill in the House of Lords which would bring back the
compulsion for pupils to take a modern foreign language to GCSE level."

Related articles
14.09.2006: Johnson to reconsider GCSE languages policy
11.09.2006: Texting slang aiding children's language skills
25.08.2006: 'Free fall' fears as pupils abandon languages
11.08.2006: Government defends language teaching reforms
20.07.2006: Pupils given iPods as language learning aid
16.01.2006: School to make all pupils learn Mandarin
22.12.2005: Report critical of language study
15.12.2005: More pupils 'must be taught foreign languages',,1920917,00.html


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