Language policy & practice in the UK
Language policy & practice in the UK
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The provisional GCSE results for 2012 were published today. After the decline in languages entries over recent years (and a very sharp fall in entries last year) they show a small increase in take up for languages in the UK. Overall numbers have increased from 309397 to 315444, up by 1.95%. This compares with a total entry for all GCSEs which has increased by 1.42%.
Behind the overall figure there is a continuing change in emphasis in relation to individual language choices. Last year French remained fairly steady (down by 785 entries, or 0.5%) but German fell by a further 5.5% (3340 fewer entries). Both Spanish and “other” languages increased their numbers quite significantly. Spanish was up by nearly 10% to 72606 and “other” increased by over 13% to 29843.
In the last three years German entries have fallen by over 21%, from 73469 in 2009 to 57547 in 2012, while French has fallen from over 188000 to 153436 (down 18.7%). Over the same period Spanish has increased by 8.25% to 72606. Despite the increase this year “other” languages have declined in numbers since 2009, mainly because of a significant drop in Chinese entries in 2011.
The slightly more hopeful, if mixed, picture for languages compares with a steady increase in entries for English (3%) and History (2%) and significant expansion of science entries (Physics has increased by over 12% and for the first time has more entries than French). Design Technology and Art, on the other hand have seen a decline in numbers
Much of the initial press reporting on GCSE has concentrated on the fall in A*s and As which it is believed is a response to Government concerns about grade inflation. This does not seem to be a major issue for languages. French and German A* and As are more or less the same percentages as last year, Spanish is slightly down while Other Languages have increased the numbers of high grades.
The provisional results for 2012 were published today. They show a further decline in take up of French and German throughout the UK. In England, French entries have fallen to 11298 (down 5.68% on last year) and the figure for the UK is very similar (12511 – a fall of 5.19%). German is down nearly 8% to 4478. Even Spanish which has increased take-up in recent years is down this year (by 3.5%) . This continues the downward trend begun two years ago following a period of relative stability at A level . Since 2010 French entries have fallen by over 9% and German by nearly 14%. This is over a period when overall entries have hardly changed (a small fall of less than 1% this year) and when subjects such as Art, English and History have had increased entries, while the uptake of science has improved dramatically. Physics (5% up this year) now has more candidates than all languages combined.
Also of concern is the decline in AS entries – where only Spanish has shown a small increase. French is down by 9% and German by 11%
The overall figure for languages appears more positive (a small increase since 2010) because of the dramatic increase in entries for “other ” languages. These now total over 9000 for the UK (8786 in England), which is nearly twice as many entries as German and significantly more than Spanish. As well as seeking to understand the factors that have led to such a rapid fall in the traditional languages, it will be important to look further at the growth in “new” languages.
In common with all other subjects and in response to Government policy there has been a small fall in the number of A* and A awards (around 40% for French and German, rather fewer for Spanish and over 50% for “other” languages.
Following the launch of the Language Rich Europe Report at the LSE on 28th June2012, Speak to the Future together with the Association for Language Learning, The Languages Company and other partners is organising a symposium for stakeholders from education and employment to take forward the debate about the future of languages in England. The symposium will address the principle objectives of Language Rich Europe and put forward recommendations for future action with regard to:
– How to promote intercultural dialogue and social inclusion through language teaching and learning
– How to promote European cooperation in developing language policies and practices across education sectors and broader society
– How to inform and increase the nature and extend of employer engagement with languages education
– How to raise awareness of the European Union and Council of Europe recommendations for promoting language learning and linguistic diversity across Europe
A major publication on languages in the UK and Europe is published today by the Language Rich Europe Consortium,. Language Rich Europe is an EU funded project involving 20 European countries, and co-ordinated by the British Council. It seeks to record countries’ progress in supporting multilingualism and to engage leaders in government, educational institutions, public services, business and the media to help develop a more strategic approach to languages across society.
The English launch of this project takes place on 28th June at the London School of Economics. Over the course of the next 12 months, we will be holding a series of workshops to help shape recommendations and opinions with regard to supporting multilingualism in the UK.
To read more about Language Rich Europe please see the official website
UK BOTTOM OF THE CLASS BUT LATEST EUROBAROMETER SHOWS A DESIRE TO IMPROVE.
The first European Survey on Language Competences shows that 9% of 14-15 year old pupils studying French in England reach the level of being “an independent language user who can deal with straightforward, familiar matters”
The corresponding figure for the 14 countries surveyed – usually for pupils learning English – is 42%. Sweden and Malta reach 82% and the Netherlands 66 %. France is on 14%.
30% of pupils in English schools do not reach the level of “a basic user who can use very simple language, with support”. Here France scores marginally worse, with 31%.
More positively, second language learners (in the case of the UK learners of German) perform relatively better.
A linked Eurobarometer opinion poll on EU citizens’ attitudes towards multilingualism and foreign language learning shows a rather more positive picture . Seventy-two per cent of people in the UK (84% EU-wide) think everyone in the EU should be able to speak at least one other language as well as their mother tongue.
However, only 39% in the UK – a quarter of whom are native speakers of other languages who can converse in English – can in practice have a conversation in a foreign language, according to those polled. This compares to an EU average of 54%.
The UK remains near the bottom of the EU table, despite a one percentage point improvement since 2005. Only Hungary (35% able to speak another language) and Italy (38%) are below. Portugal at 39% is equal with the UK and Ireland marginally above (40%).
For more details see the EU press release here
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