Saturday, March 15, 2008

Another blow for foreign languages

A while ago I blogged about how University College London was introducing a requirement that all applicants must have taken a modern language at GCSE in the battle to prevent their decline (Is this the way to save foreign languages?). It seems that the University of Cambridge already had this requirement in place, but has found it to be a barrier to its admission targets and is now dropping it. (BBC News: Cambridge drops language demand) As the requirement to take a language at GCSE was only dropped from 2004 it's only now that that will be hitting university entrance rates, but their reasoning seems sound.

As I wrote before, I seriously doubt a requirement for entry to a particular university has any impact on 13 year olds choosing their GCSE options, and if their school doesn't even offer them the option it's especially unfair on them. The way to tackle the decline in foreign language uptake, if it needs tackling at all, is to focus much earlier, rather than trying a stick that doesn't take effect for several years. Why not instead consider whether or not we're even teaching the right languages? In the modern era distance is not an issue, so the predominance of teaching French just because it's a neighbouring country could do with a rethink. Why not German or Russian or Chinese?

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