UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

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Cainntear
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby Cainntear » Sun Jan 26, 2020 3:48 pm

Another issue we have in Scotland now is that a recent change to the education system saw the number of exams kids take drop.

When I was at high school, you sat exams (N5) in 8 subjects at age 16 -- most schools now have kids sit exams in 6. This forces kids to narrow down early and choose subjects that will get them closer to their career goals. Maths and English are requirements for university study, and so are compulsory in most schools, leaving kids with only 4 slots to choose from. If you want to be a doctor, you're going to have to take 3 sciences, leaving only 1 free choice.

At the over-16 exams, Higher and Advanced Higher (Higher is slightly below English A-level, Advanced Higher is above it), you get 5 choices (that hasn't changed).

That means you have one subject you can drop between N5 and Higher, so there's very little leeway for working on outside interests -- if you still have any doubt about what you want to study at university by the time you're choosing your N5s, you have to use that 1 slot to keep your options open.

As you might imagine, the language departments were the biggest victims of this change.
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby gsbod » Sun Jan 26, 2020 3:56 pm

Cainntear wrote:First up, in education, there isn't really such a thing as "British" or "the UK". Each of the constituent countries (England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland) has its own education department. Wales and Northern Ireland mostly align with the English system and do the same exams.


Taking these regional differences into consideration, one complicating factor here in Wales is that children are required to take Welsh up to the age of 16, so there is a tendency for native English speaking children here to treat Welsh as the foreign language element of their curriculum, at the expense of considering other languages like German.
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby Cainntear » Sun Jan 26, 2020 4:04 pm

DaveAgain wrote:There has been an issue with grade inflation in british exams. Perhaps language exams are tied to Council of Europe standards, so more resistant to pressures to make them easier?

They're only sort-of linked to the CEFR, and it's only lip-service. Certainly, there's no equivalence between language exams in different countries -- an English exam for 16-year-olds in Germany is going to cover significantly more language than a German exam in the UK, because standards are higher.

I would say the problem is more down to the teaching methods. We've messed around with so many theories of learning that we've just thrown out everything that works. I'm not a high-school teacher, but I once taught some French to high-school aged children using books aimed at schools. They followed a wishy-washy sort-of-immersion-but-not-quite (because immersion clearly doesn't work outside of intensive settings) where prompts were written in French, but the kids tended not to understand the prompts, instead relying on experience from previous exercises and other clues as to how to complete the tasks. Each individual task type had so few individual tasks that by the time the kids really understood what the task was (and I had verified that they understood), there was maybe one question left to practice on. For this to work, all the tasks had to be necessarily lightweight. I didn't feel like the kids were learning as much as they could have.

Another element that makes teaching languages harder is the insistence on "teach the subject, not the exam". It's maddening. If you ask what sort of vocabulary to teach, they say "vocabulary appropriate to their level". If you ask what grammar to teach, they say "grammar appropriate to their level". If you ask what is appropriate to their level, they say "use your judgement as a teacher" (even to trainee teachers!!! On my CELTA course, before I'd taught any lessons professionally, one of the trainers answered a question with "use your judgement as a teacher"). This leads most teachers to do the opposite thing -- when the subject is poorly defined, the thing you can most concretely help with is exam technique...!
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby PeterMollenburg » Sun Jan 26, 2020 11:10 pm

The teachers, nor the pupils are the problem - they are participants in a flawed system.

It's systemic. The 'big' countries in the British-American sphere are poor at learning/teaching languages - UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, NZ, USA. Perhaps I'm wrong on one or two, but for the most part the outcomes are poor in these countries.

Yet the issue is not national, not Scottish, not British, and not even an an Anlgo-American one, nor a Commonwealth 'issue' because on the contrary the abilities in Continental Europe are quite clear - they can learn English (and other languages) and very well in many countries. It's two sides of the same coin. Ensure the anglo-american sphere has poor outcomes while the foreign language speakers in other countries will not only learn English well, but will be so keen to learn it with the global cutlure roll out (think Netflix) that it cannot be stopped.

Sovereign nations ceased to exist some time ago, thus the language teaching/learning reflects this. Education is a legal requirement in many countries up to a certain age, because we must all participate in the system - we must all adhere to the 'values' of the state. Education is financed and/or controlled by the state to some extent and must reflect the virtues (ie desires) of the state. But who is the state? In Europe, individual states are finished. The objective is to turn out a globe of English speaking economy participating robots to the detriment of other languages and truly free thinkers. Watch as the UK/AU/NZ/US/CA continue to fall into the abyss of inability to learn foreign languages and eventually complete reluctance (and acceptance that there's no point) while the languages and cultures of Europe continue to be degraded internally and externally. The exception may be Spanish which will potentially continue to mix with English in the USA (and thus be accepted globally).

Sadly, I feel there's no sense in even discussing this issue. We cannot change it as we are participating in our own downfall and it's gained far too much momentum. A downfall sold to us and bought by us with promises of candy, distractions and further empty promises by the puppet masters.
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Jan 27, 2020 12:27 am

There is no need for yet another conspiracy theory here. Cainntear, to a large extent, has spoken to the source of the problem (quote: "I would say the problem is more down to the teaching methods. We've messed around with so many theories of learning that we've just thrown out everything that works."). That is, since the late 19th century the “science” of learning – and, as a direct consequence, that of education -- has progressed beyond what anyone could have ever imagined when “public education” systems were first installed to meet the demands of the industrial revolutions which had been taking place in the U.K., Western Europe, the United States, and in the more privileged sectors of the Commonwealth.

We have seen more “revolutions” in the theory of learning than even the most zealous revolutionaries could ever wish for. Throughout the Western world, the public education systems have been subjected to decades of “reforms” the goal of which has been to implement the latest flavour-of-the-month in educational theory. Teachers, quite naturally, are never consulted on these reforms. Grading of performance against reasonable standards, where this anachronism still prevails, has become a joke. Course manuals -- once called textbooks -- no longer contain much in the way of textual information and are now evaluated on the basis of the “engaging/stimulating” multi-coloured photographs (including lots of blank space) that they offer the student.

The effect on the teaching of foreign languages is not unique, the problems are across-the-board. The result of these waves of well-intentioned reforms, all of which have been based on the latest theories, has been a generalized decline in student performance and grade inflation which is designed to camouflage the results. Here in Québec, two former Ministers of Education (both of whom subsequently became Provincial Prime Ministers) were roundly criticized for sending their own children to private schools (which are not required to implement the "reforms" to public education). In both cases, they expressed their unrelenting support for the public education system, but they did not transfer their children to the public school system. :shock:

Since each of the successive educational reforms has had the blessing of academic theorists, anyone questioning the guaranteed-to-fail teaching methodologies is deemed to be uninformed, someone who supports a retrograde approach to teaching. Meanwhile, the theorists have become a power unto themselves, they are unassailable because they have “science” on their side.

In the meantime, the Asian and Southeast Asian education authorities continue to use (slightly modified) approaches to teaching which the Western world abandoned several decades ago. Yes, many features of these now-antiquated approaches to teaching demand a great deal of the student. Performance is key and the penalties for “not meeting the grade” are, indeed, quite severe. In addition, anyone, for whatever reason, who cannot make the grade but who may still have significant potential will pay an unjustified, heavy price. The pressure to perform which families, the education system, and that society at large impose on the student are not without consequences. Unfair, you say? Yes, but they’re eating our collective lunch!

No conspiracy here, just misguided theorists running amok. :o
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Jan 27, 2020 2:18 am

Speakeasy wrote:There is no need for yet another conspiracy theory here.


Because you cannot see the forest through the trees?

Speakeasy wrote:Cainntear, to a large extent, has spoken to the source of the problem (quote: "I would say the problem is more down to the teaching methods. We've messed around with so many theories of learning that we've just thrown out everything that works."). That is, since the late 19th century the “science” of learning – and, as a direct consequence, that of education -- has progressed beyond what anyone could have ever imagined when “public education” systems were first installed to meet the demands of the industrial revolutions which had been taking place in the U.K., Western Europe, the United States, and in the more privileged sectors of the Commonwealth.

We have seen more “revolutions” in the theory of learning than even the most zealous revolutionaries could ever wish for. Throughout the Western world, the public education systems have been subjected to decades of “reforms” the goal of which has been to implement the latest flavour-of-the-month in educational theory. Teachers, quite naturally, are never consulted on these reforms. Grading of performance against reasonable standards, where this anachronism still prevails, has become a joke. Course manuals -- once called textbooks -- no longer contain much in the way of textual information and are now evaluated on the basis of the “engaging/stimulating” multi-coloured photographs (including lots of blank space) that they offer the student.

The effect on the teaching of foreign languages is not unique, the problems are across-the-board. The result of these waves of well-intentioned reforms, all of which have been based on the latest theories, has been a generalized decline in student performance and grade inflation which is designed to camouflage the results.

Since each of the successive educational reforms has had the blessing of academic theorists, anyone questioning the guaranteed-to-fail teaching methodologies is deemed to be uninformed, someone who supports a retrograde approach to teaching. Meanwhile, the theorists have become a power unto themselves, they are unassailable because they have “science” on their side.


I don't doubt any of the above, Speakeasy. But it is not the source of the problem. Continuous reforms are a perfect manner to gradually, little by little, dumb down the education system and 'reform' it to become that which those in control have wanted it to become.

Science allows for it because science is backed by grants/funding. Science indeed has it's merits, but it becomes extremely one-sided when research is paid for largely by the powers that-be - powers-that-be who desire certain results in order to carry out their desired reforms.

Speakeasy wrote:Here in Québec, two former Ministers of Education (both of whom subsequently became Provincial Prime Ministers) were roundly criticized for sending their own children to private schools (which are not required to implement the "reforms" to public education).


:o Shock! Because they know exactly what their reforms are designed to do.

Speakeasy wrote:In both cases, they expressed their unrelenting support for the public education system, but they did not transfer their children to the public school system. :shock:


Unrelenting support of course - they desire the public education system to be continually reformed, not because they think it is in the best wishes of the people (or they would send their children to public schools as well), but because they want to control the people - dumb them down, teach them what they want them to learn or not learn (and of course encouraging through class room settings, mindless acceptance of hierarchiachal control - learning to behave or misbehave even in school is more important than learning itself). Very democratic as usual. Funny how we keep maintaining the idea that democracies actually exist while all the powerful figures make decisions that have long-lasting effects on our lives and we have no say in it. At least in Canada you have a (potentially unaffordable) alternative in private schools. On the contrary countries like Germany and Sweden take the control even further with home-schooling completely against the law. Again, very democratic.


Speakeasy wrote:No conspiracy here


Again -> forests, trees. That's my take on it.
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby rdearman » Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:11 am

Let us all try to get back on topic.
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby MrPenguin » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:39 am

In my experience, non-English foreign languages are taught using the exact same methods as English here in Norway. And even so, outcomes for languages other than English are just as miserable as they are for foreign languages in anglophone countries.

The difference is exposure in daily life. English is virtually ubiquitous in the entertainment sector, as well as in the sciences (and thus in higher education), so naturally, people pick up on that and prioritise it. Other languages do not have that same advantage. And obviously, no foreign language has that kind of advantage in the US or the UK or whatever, so it only makes sense for outcomes to be poor.

Without a special interest in the subject, people don't successfully learn foreign languages unless they feel they have to. It just doesn't happen. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if mandatory foreign language instruction isn't just a complete waste of time.
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby Cainntear » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:48 am

Speakeasy wrote:In the meantime, the Asian and Southeast Asian education authorities continue to use (slightly modified) approaches to teaching which the Western world abandoned several decades ago. Yes, many features of these now-antiquated approaches to teaching demand a great deal of the student. Performance is key and the penalties for “not meeting the grade” are, indeed, quite severe. In addition, anyone, for whatever reason, who cannot make the grade but who may still have significant potential will pay an unjustified, heavy price. The pressure to perform which families, the education system, and that society at large impose on the student are not without consequences. Unfair, you say? Yes, but they’re eating our collective lunch!

Gross generalisation there, and not reasonable. I've studied with and taught essay writing to students from various countries and some Far Eastern educational systems are very good at producing young people with a remarkable capacity for repeating a lot of memorised information, but not well able to critically analyse it.

In his book Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman, Richard Feynman recounts an incident teaching Physics in Brazil where he asked a class about optical properties of materials, and they could give a textbook definition of polarisation (or whatever specific point he was discussing; I think it was polarisation), but couldn't apply it to the real world. Meanwhile, through the classroom window, you could see the sun reflecting off the sea, and he started talking about polarisation in real world terms, and it was all news to them.

So yes, there was need for reform, but large, overarching reform, and not (as you say) "flavour-of-the-month" fads that come and go. And not, of course, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Good solid principles have been developed... then misapplied.

Good advice: Spend more time praising successes than criticising failures.
Misunderstanding and misapplication: Certificates for everyone!!!!

Good advice: complex ideas are more readily understood with real world example familiar to the learner.
Misunderstanding and misapplication: Oh right, so no sums without words then?

The problem is the oversimplification of everything in trying to formalise it -- one dimensionalisation of everything, much as I discussed with regards to "the 4 skills".
Complex, subtle ideas don't simplify well.

The irony is that this one-dimensionalisation is what I consider "training" rather than "education", in that the further we get from solid principles, the further we get from being able to critically analyse theory.

We're in an era where many people consider facts unimportant because we can Google them, but we can't learn how to handle facts if we don't have any facts to handle.

I'd say western education has already thrown away too much fact from education, and we're on a path to throwing away even more. But I wouldn't promote any reversion to Victorian schooling. No, I'd promote using the established weight of evidence to develop a balanced teaching system.

Not hard, but it wouldn't make a name for anyone as they couldn't present "the best of what good teachers have always done since forever" as a revolutionary new idea.
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Re: UK-Pupils-Learn-Less-German-in-School

Postby Cainntear » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:58 am

Speakeasy wrote:Course manuals -- once called textbooks -- no longer contain much in the way of textual information and are now evaluated on the basis of the “engaging/stimulating” multi-coloured photographs (including lots of blank space) that they offer the student.

That one really gets my goat. I remember years ago reading a critique of textbook layout saying that the guiding principle of "make it look like what kids read in their leisure time" was utterly wrong. What kids read back then was magazines, and magazines are not designed to be read linearly -- you browse around until something catches your eye, start reading it, then if you lose interest before the end, you wander off and read something else. This is, of course, not what you want in a classroom. I read this before I started teaching English, and I saw it for myself in the classroom in my first year -- trying to keep kids looking at the task I wanted was really difficult. Some of them would end up reading the grammar explanation from the next day's lesson instead of answering the question, messing up the plan for 2 lessons in one go.

Things are better now, as magazines are mostly dead, so kid's textbooks aren't modelled directly on them, but there are still many sidebars that confuse the reading order, and while I mostly work with adults, I'd say there isn't a single kids class I've gone into where I haven't had kids reading ahead on language points when they're supposed to be completing exercises and then getting bored when I go to teach them the language point as planned.
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