[Lgpolicy-list] [lg policy] Scotland:

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Nov 1 16:09:40 UTC 2014

'Learning Chinese in schools is irrelevant to children'
Andrew Denholm <http://www.heraldscotland.com/andrew-denholm>
Education Correspondent
  Saturday 1 November 2014

THE current fashion for learning Chinese languages in Scottish schools is
misplaced, an academic has warned.
 [image: BRANCHING OUT: As well as teaching European languages, some
schools have "Confucius classrooms".]
BRANCHING OUT: As well as teaching European languages, some schools have
"Confucius classrooms".

Dr Dan Tierney, a reader in languages at Strathclyde University, said
Mandarin was hard to learn at first and had less relevance to pupils than
European languages.

Instead, Mr Tierney believes the Scottish Government should focus resources
on languages such as French, Spanish, German and Italian in primary schools
to ensure more pupils take up the subjects.

His comments come on the eve of a major conference in ­Glasgow on the
future of language learning, hosted by the Scottish Association for
Language Teaching, where he is delivering the keynote address. The past few
years have seen a network of "Confucius classrooms" set up at schools
across Scotland under an initiative funded by the Chinese Government to
generate interest in the country's language and culture.

The classrooms teach not only Mandarin, but also calligraphy, dance, music
and traditions such as the tea ceremony.

Mr Tierney said: "I question the current focus on Mandarin because,
although there are a lot of Chinese speakers in the world, it is a
difficult language to learn to begin with and there is less chance of
Scottish pupils travelling to China or needing it in the future.

"Learning a bit of Mandarin might be fun, but we should be identifying a
few languages that are the most important to us and getting behind those.
In terms of export markets, the languages needed for employment and the
countries pupils are most likely to visit, then France, Spain, Germany and
Italy are the ones we should be focusing on."

Mr Tierney will use his speech today to criticise the Scottish Government's
current strategy to increase language learning - known as 1+2.

Under the 1+2 policy, primary pupils are to be taught at least two modern
languages in addition to their mother tongue, starting in the first year of
schooling and adding a second foreign language no later than P5.

Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, has backed plans for primary
schools to incorporate as large a pool of languages as possible, including
Portuguese, Punjabi, Urdu and Polish. Mr Tierney said schools and teacher
training universities needed a much smaller group of languages to focus on
to ensure continuity of study and expertise among staff.

He added: "We should also be looking at finishing the work already done to
improve language learning in the upper years of primary school to make sure
that works before embarking on this highly ambitious approach further down
the school."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "Our ambitious languages
policy will enable every child in Scotland to learn two languages in
addition to their mother tongue by 2020 and underlines our commitment to
supporting a future workforce in a global, multi-cultural world.

"It is a long-term policy and is one which we are committed to delivering,
which is why we have invested an additional £5 million in 2014/15, on top
of last year's £4m, to enable local authorities to begin to implement the

The latest concern follows a historic decline in the number of pupils
taking modern language Higher exams.


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