“It must be recognised that, far from sporting a lack of interest in languages, society and education at large are witnessing a shift”
The end of the summer allows us time for some stocktaking in our sector. JCQ data have revealed that languages have been fairly stable in the last A-Level and GCSE results cycle overall (with Chinese on the way to claim the ‘third most spoken language’ spot over German nationally).
Such news gave the languages community some respite after the doom-and-gloom news of recent years. However, recently TES posted an article which claims that the actual losses for languages are higher than originally thought; conversely, the gains appear to be lower. Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL claims that ‘[the current languages situation] is a downward spiral and unless we take action to reverse this trend these subjects will continue to decline.’
Although it is agreed that ‘we need a strategy about language provision in general,’ UCML would like to champion the positive results languages achieved in recent times. As pointed out in Language Trends 2018 (a yearly report on language teaching in primary and secondary schools), despite the current challenges, in particular the ‘growth of interest and demand in Spanish negates the proposition that language teaching in English schools is in fatal decline’ (p.17).
UCML believes that the rise in interest in Chinese and ‘Other languages’, in Secondary and Higher Education, ought to be added to the gains in the overall picture. It must be recognised that, far from sporting a lack of interest in languages, society and education at large are witnessing a shift in the interest of some languages over others – reflecting the current changes in political and economic world trends. Current statistics suggest that interest in both Spanish and Chinese is expected to rise further in the next few years with possibly some of the lesser spoken languages mirroring the same trend.
The claim that languages are in a dire situation seems thus one-sided: languages are going through a stable phase which is highlighting a societal and educational change. Such situation should be supported, alongside the call for a more robust national language policy already in place in Wales and Scotland.
Elena Polisca, VC Education