UK foreign language teaching hits all-time low


Foreign language teaching in the UK’s state schools has been reduced to “the sort of thing you find in a ‘get by’ phrase book”, claims a doom-and-gloom report published yesterday.

That’s the conclusion of The Corruption of the Curriculum by Shirley Lawes, which indicates that the government’s decision in 2004 to allow GCSE pupils to drop languages has resulted in a predictable decline in the number of kids taking the exams, leading to a “dumbing down” of language curricula “as teachers react to the latest fads to revive pupils’ waning enthusiasm”.

Indeed, back in 2004, three quarters of GSCE pupils took language exams, a figure now down to a half. To add insult to injury, the government in March declared that kids “should be allowed to drop traditional French and German GCSEs in favour of exams in many languages, but only requiring a tourist’s grasp”.

Accordingly, Spanish is on the up-and-up, but “only because the country is a favourite with British holidaymakers”.* According to Laws, subject leader for modern languages at London’s Institute of Education, Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese are also on the ascendant since they’re perceived as “trendy”.

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