Pupils could be put off learning languages at school.

‘Harsh and inconsistent marking is putting pupils in England off studying languages beyond age 14, a report says.

The dawn of more rigorous GCSEs will further reduce interest in languages, research by the British Council and Education Development Trust suggests.

It says a focus on maths and sciences, as well as a perception languages are a hard option, is also de-motivating pupils and teachers.

Exams watchdog Ofqual said last year's languages results were "very stable".

From September 2016, new GCSE and A-level modern language syllabuses will be taught in England, and new exams will be taken in the summer of 2018.

The Language Trends Survey, in its 14th year of charting the state of language learning in England's schools, suggests these changes - particularly at A-level - will deter pupils from studying languages.

It says: "The exam system is seen as one of the principal barriers to the successful development of language teaching.

"The comparative difficulty of exams in languages in relation to other subjects, and widely reported harsh and inconsistent marking, are deeply de-motivating for both pupils and teachers."

The report says the EBacc, where pupils have to study English, a language, maths, science and history or geography to GCSE, "appears to be having very little impact on the numbers of pupils taking languages post-16".

Uptake after GCSE is found to be a particular concern, with some state schools suggesting the small numbers of students opting to take languages at A-level means the subject is becoming "financially unviable".’ - BBC News

‘The research was based on an online survey completed by teachers in 492 state secondary schools, 556 state primary schools and 132 independent secondary schools across the country.

Since 2002, entries for A-level French have declined by about one third, and those for German by nearly half.

Although more pupils are taking A-levels in Spanish and other languages, these increases have not involved enough pupils to make up for the shortfalls in French and German.
The 2015 GCSE entry figures showed an overall drop in the number of modern foreign language exams.

The number of French exams fell by 6.2 per cent compared with 2014, with a 9.8 per cent drop in German.

The number of Spanish exams also declined, falling 2.4 per cent although the number of students opting to take Spanish at GCSE has still more than doubled in the past two decades.

An Ofqual spokesman said: ‘We are committed to ensuring that all GCSEs, AS and A levels, including those in modern foreign languages, are sufficiently valid, produce fair and reliable results and have a positive impact on teaching and learning.

‘Last year’s results in modern foreign languages were very stable, with only small changes in the proportions achieving each grade compared to the previous year.

‘We have looked into concerns that it is harder for students to achieve the highest grades in A level languages. 

‘We found this is because of the way the exams are designed, rather than the nature of the subject content, and we are keeping this under review.

‘New modern foreign language A levels and GCSEs will be taught from this September.
‘Before we accredit a qualification we check the exams will be designed to allow good differentiation – including that the best students will be able to achieve the highest grades – and whether they are properly based on the new subject content.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘As global communication becomes easier, we know that employers increasingly prize the ability to speak a foreign language. That’s why we made languages a compulsory part of the primary curriculum and since 2014, we have seen an increase in the take up of language A levels.

‘By introducing the Ebacc, we have stopped the decline in modern foreign languages seen in the last decade, where 200,000 fewer GCSE students studied a modern language in 2010 than in 2002.

‘Last year’s results showed 20 per cent more pupils are taking languages at GCSE than in 2010 while A level entries in modern languages have increased by nearly 4 per cent since 2014.’

Pupils starting at secondary school must study a language at GCSE to enter the EBacc.’ - Daily Mail

The most recent falls in exam uptake are the continuation of a long-term trend in place since 2004, when the government ruled languages should be an optional, rather than a compulsory, GCSE option.

Mark Herbert, head of schools programmes at the British Council, said: "If the UK is to remain competitive on the international stage, we need far more young people, not fewer, to be learning languages in schools.

"The country’s current shortage of language skills is estimated to be costing the economy tens of billions in missed trade and business opportunities every year. More than that, the benefits of learning a language are huge – from boosting job prospects to acquiring the ability to understand and better connect with another culture. Parents, schools and businesses can all play their part in encouraging our young people to study languages at school and to ensure that language learning is given back the respect and prominence that it deserves."

In September 2015, a report by translation specialists Conversis found UK business leaders were finding it hard to operate globally because they can't find new staff who speak other languages. - City A.M.

While of course speaking English is a huge asset for us, other languages are absolutely vital for the UK's future prosperity. In fact speaking only English might be considered as much as a disadvantage as speaking no English at all when it comes to young people hoping to compete in an increasingly global jobs market. To quote the most recent CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey, 'Language study can also indicate that an individual may have an international outlook and, for those who study to a higher level, evidence of the ability to work in diverse teams and with other cultures'.

And no, not everyone does speak English anyway - in fact, only a quarter of the world's population speaks English and, while that's clearly a lot of people, it still leaves three quarters with whom we're - quite literally - lost for words!

The reality is that as the world becomes increasingly connected, it's no longer enough to rely on English alone. Our current lack of language skills is said to be holding back the UK's international trade performance at a cost of almost £50 billion a year and employers are crying out for language skills. With this in mind, we need far more of our young people to learn languages in order to boost their own job prospects and to help the UK stay competitive on the world stage. More than that, understanding another language is the basis for understanding another culture - and an open mind and an international outlook have never been more important for the UK's place in the world. - Huffington Post

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