Language learning in UK schools down - again

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MrsStarez
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Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby MrsStarez » Wed Feb 27, 2019 9:45 pm

Disappointing news this morning. I was lucky to study both French and German at school, but could only continue French beyond the age of 16 as there wasn’t sufficient interest to run a German class.

My son’s primary school runs French and Spanish lunch clubs, so I’m hoping to sign him up and get him started early. I hope opportunities improve by the time he hits secondary school.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47334374
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby DaveAgain » Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:24 pm

The British Council produce regular reports on UK language education figures.

Language trends 2018 [pdf]
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby Flickserve » Thu Feb 28, 2019 5:14 am

Starting a language earlier can only benefit.

One parent told me their primary school offered three languages but dropped Chinese in year 4. Such a pity.

Once the kids get into secondary school, other factors like peer pressure, reluctance to try something new, insecurity about speaking out loud start to affect language learning.
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby garyb » Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:34 am

Ah well, our schools are already the running joke of the language learning community...
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby gsbod » Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:54 pm

Well after 11 successful years of language learning as an adult, I think we need less handwringing about what is happening in our schools and more support and encouragement for lifelong learning. The attitude that if you don't start learning something as a child you will never learn it (or you'll have a harder time doing so) is far more damaging than the limitations to our school curriculums and all the other inherent challenges in our school system. Our brains don't stop being awesome just because we've reached the other side of puberty.
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby Cavesa » Thu Feb 28, 2019 1:07 pm

I think the more harmful part of the described problem are people stopping at 16 (so in the age of being much more efficient academically than before) than not starting earlier than they do. If people were given the option to drop any other difficult subject, like physics, at the age of 16, many would do so. Would any country let a large part of the population drop physics at the age of 16, just because most people won't need majority of the curriculum after the graduation and because they fear bad grades?

If the employers really need it and if the country wants people to be more open minded and knowledgeable about other cultures, the solution is obvious. One foreign language should be obligatory till the end of high school. It won't solve a lot of the problems with the langauge classes. But it will definitely change the situation of so many people just dropping and the actually interested people not having any class open.
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby gsbod » Thu Feb 28, 2019 1:16 pm

Cavesa wrote:If people were given the option to drop any other difficult subject, like physics, at the age of 16, many would do so. Would any country let a large part of the population drop physics at the age of 16, just because most people won't need majority of the curriculum after the graduation and because they fear bad grades?


Actually, this is exactly how the UK education system works. After the age of 16, you go down to three or four subjects, so many people drop physics (and other sciences, maths, languages and so on).
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby reineke » Thu Feb 28, 2019 2:45 pm

They dropped physics after we rebelled in HS. They turned it into an elective and I chose French instead. At university I wanted to study French as a third minor. I know someone was able to do just that but I was told I needed to choose two minors for a grand total of one major and three minors.
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby Cavesa » Thu Feb 28, 2019 5:27 pm

gsbod wrote:
Cavesa wrote:If people were given the option to drop any other difficult subject, like physics, at the age of 16, many would do so. Would any country let a large part of the population drop physics at the age of 16, just because most people won't need majority of the curriculum after the graduation and because they fear bad grades?


Actually, this is exactly how the UK education system works. After the age of 16, you go down to three or four subjects, so many people drop physics (and other sciences, maths, languages and so on).


Hmm, that is interesting. If the remaining subjects are taught on a much higher level, it probably makes some sense. The system of having 12 subjects till the end of the HS definitely has some disadvantages too (I can easily name a few subjects I would have dropped, especially in the last year during preparation for my university entrance exams). But I wonder, whether it doesn't tempt people too much to choose three or four easier subjects and in general doesn't lessen the education of the population as a whole.

Thanks for the information!
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Re: Language learning in UK schools down - again

Postby dampingwire » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:19 pm

Cavesa wrote:Hmm, that is interesting. If the remaining subjects are taught on a much higher level, it probably makes some sense. The system of having 12 subjects till the end of the HS definitely has some disadvantages too (I can easily name a few subjects I would have dropped, especially in the last year during preparation for my university entrance exams). But I wonder, whether it doesn't tempt people too much to choose three or four easier subjects and in general doesn't lessen the education of the population as a whole.


For many years the UK government has worried that people specialise too early, but very little has changed. In my day, you covered a broad range of subjects (maybe 12 or more) from the ages of 11 until about 15. Then from 15 to 16 you concentrated on 9 or 10 and then took your exams (O-levels, back then, GCSE now). Then you could leave school. If you carried on you continued to take 3 subjects to a higher level. After that you could continue to university.

That's how it was (more or less for my older two). My youngest has now made the transition to only studying the 10 GCSE subjects one year early (although it seems most schools are doing that now). So he gets three years to cover 10 subjects. (Although almost everyone else does too). So now they're specialising even earlier! (He's happy: he likes his 10 subjects and he got to drop a bunch he had no interest in).

I'm a little surprised that there is anywhere where you don't specialise much before heading off to university: that must be a steep learning curve once you suddenly have to up your game in one subject all in one go ...
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