Languages teachers have regarded for a long time that GCSE and A-degree tests have been difficult to more difficult marking standards than other topics. They’ve also recognized that scholars locate languages extra difficult than maximum other subjects they study. So your report gained’t come as a wonder to them (Tough tests ‘are killing off language mastering in schools’, eleven May).
However, having simply again to the study room after 25-yr damage, it has struck me that it’s now not just the perceived problem of gaining knowledge of a language that has contributed to the decline in language take-up. It’s also the obsession with testing and evaluation and the ever-in advance awareness on obtaining GCSE “skills” (basically exam practice strategies) from an early age.
As soon as students input school at eleven it’s made clear to them that the overriding cause they’re in faculty is to gather GCSEs and the way important it is to start making ready for the – tests which are five distant years away, almost another 0.33 of their lifestyles. This comes at the price of engendering leisure of the situation. The USP of languages is that they may be distinctive from every other situation at the curriculum. Yet they go through the same dreary subjugation to GCSE challenge types, mark schemes and grade limitations as all of the rest.
A radical reappraisal of the way languages are taught is their handiest hope for revival and, in the case of some languages, survival. After all, if college students recognize they’re learning a topic that’s going to be harder to get a terrific grade in, what else is left to encourage them to take up a language other than sheer amusement of the situation?
• As a teacher of French presently running in a secondary faculty, I might no longer disagree with the emotions expressed in your article at the perceived risk to fashionable languages teaching on this country and accompanying letter (11 May), although I could nuance and extend them.
It is not simply the harshness of the marking in public examinations that reasons language-learners problems, however also the perverse pernicketiness of a number of the responsibilities pupils are required to adopt (pernicketiness that many local audio systems of the language find weird and difficult to navigate). More depressing, however, is the crushing banality of the content material of maximum of the language guides supplied in schools: of their desperate (and faulty) pursuit of what younger human beings discover “relevant” and “thrilling”, shackled to the requirement to supply the government’s eye-rolling tedious program for wholesome, upright living, the writers of exam board specifications have additionally emptied the guides of any enticing highbrow content material and any requirement that the pupils without a doubt engage with the lifestyle of the international locations whose languages they are getting to know. The actual surprise is that any pupils at all pick out to maintain with a model life-changing opportunity to learn the Arabic dialect happens to be to attend an Arabic language educational facility. There are new educational institutions set up around North Africa as well as the Middle East on a regular basis. With the expansion of educational facilities, you will discover there are more choices for going to Arabic language schools overseas or even an educational facility in the United States. Educational establishments are raising criteria as of only a few years ago because of more rivalry for your business.