Over the past 12 years and more, la Academia has watched with interest and increasing exasperation as successive governments have changed, strengthened, diluted and messed with language learning in UK schools. Everyone seems to agree that languages are an essential skill, but there is never sufficient funding to make all the good intentions happen.
The current government has had a huge push on getting UK companies to export, yet all businesses complain of a lack of language skills in their employees.
The government has made MFL in primary schools compulsory, but in a very half-hearted way, and we feel that this, like many previous schemes, is a ten-minute wonder. When languages are not one of the key subjects, and are not going to be specifically assessed by OfSTED, most primary schools will do the bare minimum and focus their resources on Maths, English and Science, where they know the inspectors will be scrutinising their work.
La Academia is calling for a joined-up approach to language learning – big measures need to be considered. Here are a few – you may want to add your own!
- An overhaul of language choices in schools – we are in a chicken and egg situation where teachers know French, German and Spanish, so successive generations are taught these languages, ignoring the importance of Chinese, Arabic and Japanese.
- Primary school and secondary school MFL to be linked – children learn French for a couple of years, then at secondary they learn Spanish – or worse, they carry on with French, but start from the beginning again!
- More practical language skills to be taught – gaining confidence in speaking is crucial. GCSE exams have a culture of writing answers to pre-set questions, then learning them by rote – secondary school children are not being taught the ability to think on their feet in a foreign language.
We will expand on this over the next few blogs and put forward ideas to take language learning in schools forward.
If you have views on this vital subject, do share them on our Social media accounts – we will include your ideas in upcoming blogs – here’s to a revolution in language learning in our schools!