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BBC article: Language learning: German and French drop by half in UK schools

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Dodros, Feb 27, 2019.

  1. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    On the news this morning. Fall in numbers studying French and German, while the switch to other languages does not compensate for this drop. At least British government and industry are showing some concern at this state of MFL affairs.
    Language learning is at its lowest level in the UK's secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling most.

    BBC analysis shows drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 in the numbers taking GCSE language courses in the worst affected areas in England.

    A separate survey of secondaries suggests a third have dropped at least one language from their GCSE options.

    In England, ministers say they are taking steps to reverse the decline.

    The BBC attempted to contact every one of the almost 4,000-plus mainstream secondary schools in the UK, and more than half - 2,048 - responded.

    Of those, most said the perception of languages as a difficult subject was the main reason behind a drop in the number of pupils studying for exams.

    Read more at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47334374.
  2. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Not surprising to me . Been down the ‘ taking action to address ‘ route so many times before - not sustainable. Of course schools / students driven by the grade / exam success agenda not going to risk entries. I even suspect that the MFL syllabi not fit for purpose and then the jump in required skills / knowledge / expertise from KS4 to 5 very telling. My former school ( v challenging ) gets good results at KS4 according to Ofsted report because there is a small ‘ select ‘ option group who pursue - the Drama department adopted this policy years ago - ha !
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  3. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Very sad reading. Especially so for those of us who realise the value of languages on job prospects and in terms of personal development understanding different cultures.

    Interestingly it was being discussed on local radio and a teacher was commenting on how the curriculum isn't exactly 'helpful' in training youngsters to be innovative with languages and really learn to manipulate it and I think I agree we may need to look at exams and think how the expectations coud change to help with this?
    agathamorse, MarieAnn18 and minnie me like this.
  4. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Yes I think that creativity in many subjects has been squeezed from the Curriculum
  5. cathr

    cathr Occasional commenter

    We might get somewhere if employers reward language skills adequately in monetary terms eg:
    French Copy Translator
    Posted 17 January by ………..
    • £16,650 - £18,500 per annum
    • Newton Abbot
  6. Eszett

    Eszett New commenter

    Agree with cathr. I feel ashamed to say this as an MFL teacher, but I have recently had doubts whether there is really any point in encouraging students to do languages if they don't like it.
    Whenever I need to promote my subject before students choose their options, I tell them that languages open doors and that you can get a better job if you speak a foreign language. Is this really true though?

    Yes, you can get a better job, if you speak a language fluently ADDITIONALLY to your main qualifications. But I have hardly ever had a student who had great grades in economics or STEM subjects AND learnt their foreign language well enough to compete with native speakers working in these fields.

    Most of the students who get really good at languages are language geeks and end up doing language and literature degrees at uni rather than going into industry. What kind of jobs are these students going to do? Teaching, interpreting... High stress, low pay. I sometimes look at these super-enthusiastic students in my class and think: Oh God, please don't turn into ME. Do something practical.

    Please, someone, convince me I am wrong...
  7. lifereallyistooshort

    lifereallyistooshort New commenter

  8. agathamorse

    agathamorse Occasional commenter

    I agree with you, Eszett. The old adage we spill out every options evening about how learning a language makes you more employable and you can earn more is getting harder for me to say. I find it hard to encourage students to sit the A level now, too. It's become so much harder than the old A level and it is very difficult for students to get the good grades. I feel as if we are setting them up to fail.
    minnie me and install like this.
  9. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I recall someone saying something along the lines of ... a Brit ( for arguments sake ) just speaks another language in addition to their native tongue whilst many many Europeans ( for want of another term ) already speak excellent English and are fluent in their own so...... re selling languages as a fab job opportunity ?? no just does not make sense . I honesty think if students ( able and not so able ) want to pursue and are willing to put the time in then run a course / option BUT the idea of ‘ making ‘ students see the value is just absurd - has never and will never ‘ work ‘. I lived in France on three separate occasions and loved it - liked to think I made the most ... changed my life to a certain degree BUT I am not precious about my subject nor am I a ‘ crusader ‘. Apart from working with a handful of delightful ‘ volunteer ‘ linguists ( they wanted to study Spanish in addition to French which was timetabled ) I taught at lunch time I can say teaching my specialism was the least rewarding aspect of a career. Luckily there were other strings to my bow which I found more satisfying
    agathamorse likes this.
  10. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    I wonder how easy it is for them to get someone for this . . .?
  11. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    The BBC attempted to contact every one of the almost 4,000-plus mainstream secondary schools in the UK, and more than half - 2,048 - responded.

    This is interesting. Who responds? Language teachers? SMT? Students who are making the choices?

    I strongly suspect that because languages are considered harder by management they are not supported/promoted as they should be because it's 'better' to get children to take 'easier' subjects and get better results for the school.

    League tables have skewed everything.
    agathamorse and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  12. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    Considering they can be (and often are) sacked if the school doesn't get what are considered to be good results by the MAT, or whoever else is really running the school these days, it's not really terribly surprising. Encourage easy subjects and keep your job, or encourage languages and get the sack. We all have mortgages to pay . . .
    sparkleghirl and agathamorse like this.
  13. lifereallyistooshort

    lifereallyistooshort New commenter

    From 18 months or so ago: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41693230

    There is evidence for languages degrees leading to good incomes - in the top half of this table. Most of those earning this money are not teachers or translators of course!
    agathamorse and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  14. Eszett

    Eszett New commenter

    What do you reckon they do? Something where they really need the language, or something like HR which you could do with basically any degree as long as you have a degree?
    agathamorse likes this.
  15. thepolyglot

    thepolyglot New commenter

    Only HR Admins would get away with 'any' degree... Do have any chance of progression, a post-grad qualification has become the norm.

    I worked in HR for 15 years before changing careers and the reason I managed to get on and do quite well was down to my language skills and my MSc in HR.
  16. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    I teach two subjects up to A level, an MFL and a Social Science. The Social Science is not one that is on the 'easy subject' list. Nonetheless, the MFL is a lot more rigorous and most certainly much harder. Having studied both up to post-graduate level, I can confirm that this is also the case further up. Although not considered 'more useful', graduates in languages tend to earn much more than those in the Social Science I teach. It doesn't take much to see why that might be.
  17. Eszett

    Eszett New commenter

    thepolylot, I didn't want to insult anybody in HR. In a way, your story proves just the point I was clumsily trying to make: Language skills are great to have as an additional qualification. I have real doubts that a language degree alone will help you do well in life, financially speaking. I assume, a lot of language graduates, having successfully completed a difficult programme, are quite academic and will go on to do post-grad studies that might qualify them for a variety of jobs.

    Should we really encourage or even force less able students to focus on languages, when they are struggling with Maths, Science and English? With the argument they are going to earn a lot?
    agathamorse likes this.
  18. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    The whole system needs an overhaul. The insane overemphasis of Maths English and Science is the real elephant in the room of our education system. Combine it with the silly idea that all kids should do GCSEs, when they clearly aren't capable, and then sit back and blame it on the fact that the ebacc encourages more able kids to do an MFL for maybe 2 x 50 mins per week. Blaming MFL is a nice distraction.
    That's a wrongheaded argument for any subject at school.
    agathamorse and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  19. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Would you countenance a removal of the GCSE, but stay on the KS4 curriculum? So, students could opt to do languages but instead of having to learn GCSE they could learn a curriculum written by their teacher which would be appropriate for the class (starting point etc.)
    agathamorse, JL48 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  20. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    Who would have the time to do this? We have had things like Asset languages which were good but the exam board got rid of them. Also the British Airways scheme is good. Check it out.
    agathamorse and Eszett like this.

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