Languages being taught in UK schools seem to be having a bit of a shake up right now.
The top two for as long as we can remember have been French and German, but this is set to change. Quickly.
Learning a language is a crucial part of childhood. Not only is it a much needed skill but it also helps children to have a better understanding of the world.
Language lessons at school can also have a positive impact way beyond the classroom days. This process can have a significant impact in developing a worldview early on which will be useful when they enter the world of business.
We’re particularly interested in these findings as we have a number of International children who attend our Easter and summer activity camps. They have a great time at camp, improving on their language skills and meeting new friends. So, it’s interesting to see how our language lessons are doing in UK schools.
A recent report by the British Council on language trends found:
● Participation in learning languages in schools have declined since it was removed as a compulsory subject in key stage 4 in 2004 ● More time is dedicated to learning languages in independent schools than state schools ● Boys are underrepresented in language studies at GCSE and A-level ● GCSE entries were higher than average in London and the South East ● 34% of state secondary schools report that leaving the EU has had a negative effect on language learning ● There’s been a decline in children taking up French and/or German ● There’s been an increase in children taking Spanish ● Spanish is set to become the most popular foreign language, overtaking French at A level by 2020 and at GCSE in the early 2020s
What’s the language landscape?
Spanish lessons have been on the school syllabus for decades, but it’s always been the more marginal of the triplets (French, German and Spanish).
Although the general trend is that languages in general have declined in recent times, there seems to be a winner emerging. Spanish is actually defying convention and gaining in popularity.
A quarter of state schools and more than 1 in 10 independent schools that used to offer German or French at A-level have stopped doing so in the last 3 years. On the other hand, A-level entries in Spanish have almost doubled in the last 10 years, from 4,000 in 2007 to 7,600 in 2017. Spanish G.C.S.E. entries have also seen massive growth from 58,230 in 2010 to 90,544 in 2017.
What’s going on then?
There are some key findings to be aware that shows some significant trends that schools will need to tackle.
Firstly, there seems to be a lower uptake in languages in state schools in disadvantaged areas. Also, boys are less likely to take up a foreign language than girls (44% vs 56% for G.C.S.E and 37% v 63% for A-level).
Teresa Tinsley, said:
“The research shows that there is a growing rift between schools where languages are valued and developed imaginatively as part of a stimulating curriculum and those which are struggling to overcome disadvantage and a growth in negative attitudes."
“These schools will need support and encouragement if all pupils across the board are to enjoy the enriching experience of learning a language.”
On the plus side...
With less opportunity to learn a language at school, it’s surprising to read that there is an increase in schools teaching a wider range of modern languages.
Spanish is flourishing, but it’s not the only victor. Schools are offering a more diverse range of languages are catering for a mix of new and heritage learners and native speakers.
Arabic, Chinese, Italian and Polish have all seen an increase in G.C.S.E entries since 2011, even if this hasn’t compensated for the drop out in language uptake in general, it’s still a positive to come out of this report.
We hope that languages don’t disappear from the UK school curriculum and we can continue to teach our kids these valuable skills.