Jump to content
The Education Forum
  • Announcements

    • Evan Burton

      OPEN REGISTRATION BY EMAIL ONLY !!! PLEASE CLICK ON THIS TITLE FOR INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR REGISTRATION!:   06/03/2017

      We have 5 requirements for registration: 1.Sign up with your real name. (This will be your Username) 2.A valid email address 3.Your agreement to the Terms of Use, seen here: http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=21403. 4. Your photo for use as an avatar  5.. A brief biography. We will post these for you, and send you your password. We cannot approve membership until we receive these. If you are interested, please send an email to: edforumbusiness@outlook.com We look forward to having you as a part of the Forum! Sincerely, The Education Forum Team
Sign in to follow this  
John Simkin

Foreign Languages at GCSE

Recommended Posts

Article on the BBC website:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5281126.stm

Take-up of foreign languages at GCSE is declining so fast it has "reached the point of no return", a head teachers' union leader has warned.

Entries this summer in German were down by 14.2%, while French declined by 13.2% and Spanish by 0.5%.

John Dunford of the Association of School and College Leaders said the subjects were in "freefall".

GCSE languages were made non-compulsory in England in 2004. Efforts are being made to raise take-up at primary level.

For the second year in a row, French showed the biggest decline among the major GCSE subjects - those with 100,000 or more entries.

It was taken by 236,189 students, compared with 272,140 last year.

German fell through the 100,000 barrier to 90,311 and Spanish was down to 62,143.

The biggest riser among major subjects was religious studies - up 8.2%, followed by ICT and PE (up 6%), history (up 1.9%) and maths (up 1.2%).

Among the subjects with fewer than 100,000 entries, statistics was up 32.9% and media, film and TV studies 25.9%.

Mr Dunford said many students were choosing the latter instead of languages as it was seen as an "easier" option.

But Ellie Johnson Searle, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications,which issues the results for the exam boards, said of media studies: "This is less than 10% of the number doing maths and English.

"What we are looking at here is students being fitted for courses.

"They are also doing a number of other GCSEs and it's important that they have a broad range of qualifications."

But she added: "Any fall in language take-up like that must be a cause for concern to everybody."

Brighter pupils were still gravitating towards foreign languages, Dr Johnson Searle said.

However, Dr Dunford said: "Fourteen-year-olds are disadvantaging themselves in the job market by giving up languages and the number of language teachers is declining.

"I think we have now passed the point of no return for languages in secondary schools.

"Schools need to find new ways of teaching languages other than just GCSEs."

He said more people had to start learning languages after the age of 16 and that schools had to introduce them in a more informal way, such as two-week full-time courses at the end of the academic year.

The government is making efforts to increase interest in subjects such as French and German among primary school pupils.

It is hoped this will increase participation at GCSE in a few years' time.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said languages had to be made compulsory again.

He also said he feared the primary school focus could "narrow" the range taught at secondary level to mainly French.

Mr Sinnott added: "Subjects like Portuguese and Spanish are globally important languages. There's been a lot of interest in Mandarin in recent years as well.

"I hope the primary school strategy doesn't mean there's simply a continuum of French learning and little else."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Take-up of foreign languages at GCSE is declining so fast it has "reached the point of no return", a head teachers' union leader has warned.

I'm glad I moved from MFL into Special Educational Needs in the mid-1990s. When my school was 11-18, it used to be a worry getting enough "bums on seats" to run a one-class (Upper and Lower Sixth together) A-level German course. Now the problem is affecting KS4 MFL.

Surely the government must have seen this coming when they decided to make MFL study voluntary after key stage 3. The oft-vaunted rejoinder that primary MFL will compensate for the drop in pupil numbers doesn't give me any satisfaction. I lived through the first, Nuffield, primary MFL initiative back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which produced magnificent linguists but fizzled out because of a shortage of suitably qualified teachers. I hope the latest initiative doesn't go the same way and we are left with just three years of "MFL for all".

I subscribe to the language teachers' forum Linguanet and yesterday I posted a message on that discussion group about an Ofsted document of 2005 entitled "'You don't know at the time how useful they'll be.': Implementing modern foreign languages entitlement in Key Stage 4" and downloadable from

http://tinyurl.com/fpwv4

The publication interests me professionally because it highlights good practice in making MFL less élitist and more inclusive at key stage 4. I don't want MFL to return to the status it occupied when I began studying it back in the early 1960s and it was a subject for the select few. I've had no response to my message so far on Linguanet. I wonder whether I will have better luck here?

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I subscribe to the language teachers' forum Linguanet and yesterday I posted a message on that discussion group about an Ofsted document of 2005 entitled "'You don't know at the time how useful they'll be.': Implementing modern foreign languages entitlement in Key Stage 4" and downloadable from

http://tinyurl.com/fpwv4

The publication interests me professionally because it highlights good practice in making MFL less élitist and more inclusive at key stage 4. I don't want MFL to return to the status it occupied when I began studying it back in the early 1960s and it was a subject for the select few. I've had no response to my message so far on Linguanet. I wonder whether I will have better luck here?

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

David, this forum is also quiet during the school holidays. However, I wonder if some MFL teachers want it to become an élitist subject. I read one report that one of the consequences of the decline in MFL at GCSE is that it has improved the quality of the people studying it at A level.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Johne writes:

I wonder if some MFL teachers want it to become an élitist subject. I read one report that one of the consequences of the decline in MFL at GCSE is that it has improved the quality of the people studying it at A level.

There is no question that the decline in numbers at GCSE level is turning modern languages into the élitist subject that it was when I was at secondary school (1953-1961). As a partner in a business that sells software for modern languages I can see clearly from our sales figures over the last two years that it is mainly specialist language colleges and independent schools (prep and secondary) that buy such software. The decline in modern languages in secondary schools is also leading to university languages departments cutting down the number of languages that they offer or closing down completely. My former university's languages department closed.

As for languages being an élitist subject, maybe this will result in better students at A level, but the rest of Europe seems to be able to come to terms with a languages-for-all policy in schools.

Edited by Graham Davies

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The following resolution to be submitted to the annual conference of the NUT was passed by West Sussex Teachers Association at a general meeting on 27 09 2006

“Conference notes that the Government’s action in making Modern Foreign Languages optional at KS4 has resulted in far too few students leaving school with a qualification in a language. According to ambassadors to the UK this will have the effect of reducing the UK’s standing in Europe as the country is seen as “the language dunce of Europe.” It may also have the effect of reducing the UK’s competitiveness in the global market.

“Conference notes that as a result of the Government’s decision, Languages will again be seen as an elitist curriculum area in which only the most able can be successful.

“Conference welcomes the Primary Languages Strategy, but believes that the decision to make Languages optional at KS should be reversed for the large majority of pupils. “

Readers can either comment on the blog

http://westsussexteachersassociation.blogspot.com/

or go along to an NUT meeting to support, oppose or amend the resolution. It is up to you.

Johne writes:
I wonder if some MFL teachers want it to become an élitist subject. I read one report that one of the consequences of the decline in MFL at GCSE is that it has improved the quality of the people studying it at A level.

There is no question that the decline in numbers at GCSE level is turning modern languages into the élitist subject that it was when I was at secondary school (1953-1961). As a partner in a business that sells software for modern languages I can see clearly from our sales figures over the last two years that it is mainly specialist language colleges and independent schools (prep and secondary) that buy such software. The decline in modern languages in secondary schools is also leading to university languages departments cutting down the number of languages that they offer or closing down completely. My former university's languages department closed.

As for languages being an élitist subject, maybe this will result in better students at A level, but the rest of Europe seems to be able to come to terms with a languages-for-all policy in schools.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with David Wilson. The government should have seen this coming. We (teachers of modern foreign languages) gave them enough warnings. But the government's volte face may have come too late. MFL teachers in secondary education have been made redundant, university languages departments have cut down the number of languages that they offer or even closed down, and suppliers of MFL materials have decided to concentrate on other curriculum areas or gone out of business. I just received an email from Granada Learning. They have phased out three of their own interactive multimedia CD-ROMs: En Route, Unterwegs, French Grammar Studio. They are offering new electronic resources but these appear to emanate from other producers and are intended for whole-class teaching with an interactive whiteboard.

Elsewhere in this forum I wrote. I'll repeat it here:

I detest the top-down, control freak mentality that currently pervades all aspects of education. For example, Becta has just issued new guidelines to suppliers of registered electronic resources under the Curriculum Online initiative. The phrase that caught my eye in the new guidelines was: “Becta does not anticipate that any registration products will require removal but please note the stronger requirements for products to be designed for schools and linked to the curriculum”.

I doubt that teachers of my subject area, namely Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), will be particularly impressed by this requirement. Many electronic resources - probably "most" in the case of gifted students who need to be stretched beyond Common European Framework Threshold Level B1 = Higher GCSE - are not specifically designed for schools and linked to the National Curriculum. MFL teachers require a vast amount of authentic sources, as used by mother tongue speakers of the languages that they teach, e.g. text extracts from the national press, and audio and video clips from radio and TV, possibly supplied "live" via websites, in the form of blogs and podcasts and also on CD-ROM or DVD.

In other words, MFL teachers often seek materials that are not necessarily linked to the National Curriculum but those materials which accurately and authentically reflect the languages that they teach and the cultures of the countries in which the languages are spoken. There used to be a large number of suppliers of educational materials of this sort in the UK, and there were also suppliers in Continental Europe and elsewhere, e.g. French-speaking Canada. UK suppliers now tend to concentrate on producing a more limited - and less richer - range of electronic resources which are specifically linked to the National Curriculum, and overseas suppliers are effectively cut out. Is this what was intended by the DfES? Maybe it was part of the government's Grand Plan in killing off Modern Foreign Languages in state schools - which it has effectively achieved by making the study of a foreign language optional beyond KS3. As a result, Modern Foreign Languages as a subject area is increasingly becoming the pursuit of an academic élite. We appear to be returning to the situation that I remember in my schooldays in the 1940s to early 1960s, where only "posh" kids studied foreign languages in order to prepare themselves for careers in the diplomatic corps and international business and just swanning around Europe for pleasure. As a partner in a business that supplies MFL software to schools, I can see a clear trend in our latest sales figures, where most of our trade now comes from independent secondary and prep schools and from specialist state schools, i.e. language colleges and technology colleges.

I think that the new requirement reflects Becta's poor state of knowledge about the ways in which Modern Foreign Languages as a subject area is "different" and underlines the blinkered approach to education that affects this fog-ridden island.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://education.guardian.co.uk/gcses/stor...1921266,00.html

James Meikle, education correspondent

Friday October 13, 2006

The Guardian

The education secretary, Alan Johnson, yesterday ordered an urgent review of modern languages in schools after huge drops in the numbers of 16-year-olds taking French and German at GCSE.

The decision to stop making the subjects compulsory after 14 was taken three years ago and the first exam entries following the change showed such decreases in French and German that heads warned they were in freefall.

Mr Johnson shared the "deep disappointment" about a 14.7% drop in languages and said if the review showed the government strategy was "wrong and we should go into reverse, we will listen to that advice and we will do that".

But he gave a clear message he did not want to do so. "We want languages to flourish. Forcing 14-16-year-olds to learn a language I don't think will achieve that objective. Exciting children about languages at an early age, finding new and more inspiring ways of teaching languages, will," he told the Commons.

Lord Dearing, who will publish an interim report before Christmas, said he was not starting with a "predisposition" to make languages compulsory. He has long been regarded as education's Mr Fixit - he reviewed the curriculum for the Conservative government in the early 1990s.

Languages are compulsory only for 11-14-year-olds, although the Tories are trying to amend the education bill in the Lords to make them compulsory at GCSE. Numbers taking French and German were falling before language study was made an option for the age group, but the slide has got worse. This year French entries were down to 236,189, a drop of 36,000 in a year, and nearly 111,000 fewer than 2001. German was down by nearly 15,000 entries on 2005, nearly 45,000 on 2001.

Interest in other modern languages has grown, although Spanish GCSE entries were slightly down this year.

Surveys suggest that 56% of primary schools now offer courses to some pupils. Lord Dearing said: "If you can get it going early, it makes pupils feel much more comfortable about it later on because you have a flying start."

Lord Dearing, whose final report must be completed by February, said vocational courses could be adapted so that teaching of motor mechanics, for instance, might include relevant French or German. Employers could also help by stressing how valuable the ability to speak a language could be for future earnings.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Returning to a compulsory GCSE is not feasible in the short term and, more importantly, it does not address the fundamental issue. The content of the curriculum must be made more practically focused and relevant to students' career choices."

Meanwhile an independent inquiry into primary education in England is launched today. The two-year review based at Cambridge University and financed by a £350,000 grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Trust hopes to shape the future of schooling for young children for a generation, assessing the impact of political initiatives such as the national curriculum and reading and literacy drives.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've already made my main points on this issue in my previous posting.

See the article in The Independent by Janet Street-Porter on the fall in the numbers of students taking GCSEs in modern foreign languages: http://tinyurl.com/jgmy5

I normally find JS-P's writings very irritating. She's provocative, but I think she has a point when she writes:

Weird then, that about half of our young people are leaving school virtually unemployable. How can they be passing exams, but not really be fit for anything useful that would justify a minimum-wage pay packet? The simple reason is the word "choice". The moment the government decided to make modern languages optional, kids stopped learning them - hence the disastrous decline in the number of people studying French, German and Spanish. Now teenagers learn rubbish like home economics, drama, business and communication systems (whatever that is). We are so politically correct that no one really fails any more - they just get an F or G grade. The hot subjects that have really become popular are statistics and media, film and TV studies - doesn't that just tell you how secondary education these days is geared to being enjoyable and "fun" rather than useful and focused. I would never employ anyone with any qualifications in media studies: they are useless. The moment you give someone aged 14 a choice, they'll generally opt for the easy way out - and who can blame them.

Another article in The Independent is headed "Pupils can choose from 30 languages in online GCSEs": http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article1757282.ece

But when you read it in detail it's all about the online subscription service offered by Rosetta Stone and how one particular headteacher is looking for an easy way out, i.e. don’t employ language teachers but seek a ready-made online solution: http://www.therosettastone.co.uk

Rosetta Stone is hardly state-of the-art CALL. The software and pedagogy date back to the early 1990s. The pedagogy only suits a particular type of learner, i.e. someone who prefers to learn a language through images. I tried it and it just didn't work for me, and I cannot imagine anyone achieving a GCSE just by using Rosetta Stone online. An online subscription costs around 100 pounds for six months - which I think is for one individual learner, but there may be deals for schools. Can you get to GCSE level in a foreign language in six months? I doubt it. It took me, as a highly-motivated 11-16 year-old at a highly selective boys’ grammar school in the 1950s, five years to get to O level in French and three years to get to O level in German. I calculate that for French I had around 550 class-contact hours and for German (which I began learning at the age of 13) around 450 class-contact hours (we had 3 double lessons per week). I passed in both languages, respectively with B and C grades.

Then there is an Education Guardian article about OCR introducing e-assessment of modern foreign languages at GCSE level:

http://education.guardian.co.uk/gcses/stor...1891858,00.html

This is typical journalistic hype, suggesting once again that there is an easy way out, i.e. don’t employ human beings, use computers. And OCR should know better too, but I guess they are touting for business and this is the reason why they fed this hype to the press. Anyway, nothing revolutionary here! The Guardian article states:

Pupils doing the new GCSE will sit computer-based tests involving a mixture of multiple choice and short answers without any need for pens or pencils. Coursework for the new GCSE will also be submitted electronically.

In other words, the same type of tests that those of us who have been in this game for a long time were developing from the end of the 1970s onwards. The new element is that they are online. The article continues:

Marking for the multiple-choice section of exams will be done by computer but moderators will assess longer answers and coursework.

In other words, the same approach to examining that my wife Sally experienced as an Open University student in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time there were computer-marked assignments (CMAs) and tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). CMAs were completed by the student by filling in "blobs" indicating which answers in multiple-choices tests the student thought correct. These were posted to the OU and run through a computer scanner which read the marked blobs and produced a result. TMAs (mainly essays in Sally's choices of subjects) were marked by human beings, i.e. tutors. The new element is that it is done online.

The Guardian article is misleading in suggesting (citing Patrick Craven of OCR) that students can be "fully e-assessed". Some aspects of knowledge and skills in modern foreign languages cannot be tested by computer - which the article admits (see the second quotation above). For a detailed analysis of what is possible and impossible see Terry Atkinson's contribution on computer-aided assessment at the ICT for Language Teachers website, Module 4.1: http://www.ict4lt.org

We discussed this topic in detail before we began work on the DIALANG (diagnostic testing) website at http://www.dialang.org

The DIALANG project brought together experts in testing foreign languages and experts in computer-aided assessment from all over Europe. You cannot test speaking - which is why speaking does not figure in the DIALANG online tests.

In short, there’s no easy way out. Learning a foreign language is hard work and takes a long time.

Edited by Graham Davies

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×