All-Party Parliamentary Group leads call for compulsory language education

2019-03-11

Language learning in Britain requires serious attention, according to an all-party parliamentary group of MPs and peers.


They claim there is an “urgent and compelling” need to take action and suggest that the UK is missing out culturally, socially and economically as a result of poor language education.


A new report from the group suggests that around 3.5% of the national gross domestic product (GDP) is lost as young people are not “culturally agile” enough to operate using different languages.


This is a particular cause for concern as the use of English in digital content channels is declining, while the report also notes that language learning should not be viewed as something that is “only for the top set”.


The report calls for a “statutory entitlement to languages education at all stages of the curriculum from ages 5 to 18” – marking an improvement on the current curriculum where languages are only required at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3.


Entries for modern foreign languages at GCSE and A-level have also declined in recent years while the group has also called for more qualifications on the back of concerns that pupils view it as being extremely difficult to get good grades in modern foreign language subjects.


Joint chair of the group, Baroness Jean Coussins, told the BBC that the education system has been “complacent” when it comes to teaching languages and spoke of the need to encourage more people of all abilities to consider the subject.


A major hurdle to potential reforms relates to finances and modern language teacher availability, with the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, saying that any targets must be “realistic”.


“We need a national strategy to enthuse young people about language learning which is underpinned by having enough modern languages teachers and funding,” he explained.


The latest report added that language learning has a number of health benefits for pupils and that it can help them to develop a wider skill set.


It also states that the number of languages being taught in primary and secondary schools should be increased and greater value should be placed on languages at all levels, from the government through to teachers and parents.


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