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The Tomlinson Report was published yesterday. I thought it is something worth discussing. I would be interested in hearing from educators from outside as well as inside the UK.

This is how the Guardian described the main points of the report:

* Replace GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications with a new single diploma over 10-year period of reform.

* Slash the number of exams pupils have to take.

* Replace all coursework with a single extended project. Some hands-on courses, such as art and design, would still have project-based work, but this would be done in school - rather than independently - to reduce cheating. Cheats would also be weeded out when they had to sit an oral exam.

* The diploma would come at four levels: entry (equivalent to pre-GCSEs), foundation (GCSEs at grade D-G), intermediate (GCSE A*-C) and advanced (A-level).

* Students would be able to progress at their own rate, paving the way for mixed-aged classes.

* Advanced-level students would be able to sit extra hard questions to get even higher marks than are currently available under the A-level system to add extra "stretch". These would be introduced to A-levels as A-plus and A-double plus before the diploma was introduced.

* The diploma would be made up of the modules, which would be adapted from the existing A-level and GCSE modules.

* Students could pick their own combination (open diploma) or opt for one of the 20 pre-designed combinations (specialised diploma). This should give stronger and more respected vocational qualifications.

* Introduce a new "core" which all pupils would have to do to pass the diploma, made up of: "functional" - maths, ICT and communication skills, an extended essay, and "wider activities" - work experience, paid jobs, voluntary work and family responsibilities.

* "Graduates" of the diploma would be given a transcript of their achievements, including a breakdown of individual module marks, which would be available to employers and universities online.

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I appointed Mr Tomlinson with the view that the status quo is not sustainable. Doing nothing is not an option. Under the current system, many of our young people achieve very high standards, whether in schools, colleges or work-based training, and move on to higher education or employment. But too many drop entirely out of education or training by the age of 17. Some do not have sufficient grasp of the core skills that they need for work and life. Others cannot find a straightforward path to meet their vocational ambitions. Some are simply not stretched enough to enable them to fulfil their own potential...

When we published our policy document 14-19: opportunity and excellence at the beginning of last year we concluded that these problems could not be solved simply by short-term measures, important though they are. Longer-term reform is also necessary.

We therefore asked the working group to advise on a framework for qualifications that would enable all our young people to achieve their full potential, which would motivate them to stay in learning after the age of 16, and which would also reduce the burden of assessment on students, their teachers and the examinations system.

We have got to constantly prepare for the future. That means making sure that children get the grounding in the basics of literacy and numeracy.

It means actually strengthening GCSEs and A-levels and making sure in particular that at the top end, A-levels are made more stretching so that we're achieving more excellence throughout the education system.

I am determined that any evolution of the system must increase public confidence in it. Therefore my approach will be to build on all that is good in the current system, including the real and great strengths of A-levels and GCSEs. The Tomlinson report rightly confirms their place in the system and seeks to build on them. They would stay as the building blocks of any new system."

http://education.guardian.co.uk/1419educat...1330303,00.html

Edited by Charles Clarke
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The purpose of reform will be to improve upon the existing system, not replace it. As Mike Tomlinson and Charles Clarke said, GCSEs and A-levels will stay, so will externally marked exams. Reform will strengthen the existing system where it is inadequate, there will be greater challenge at the top for those on track to higher education. There will also be a sharper focus on the basics of literacy and numeracy and ICT. And there will also be improved vocational provision.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,...1330605,00.html

Edited by Tony Blair
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I also welcome the Tomlinson Report. Unlike Tony Blair and Charles Clarke I do not believe it is desirable to run Tomlinson’s diploma and GCSEs and A-levels together. Blair has obviously misread the report when he says: “As Mike Tomlinson and Charles Clarke said, GCSEs and A-levels will stay”. He might be right about Clarke (after all he loyally carries out his orders but completely wrong about Tomlinson. At least Michael Howard was honest in his rejection of Tomlinson’s proposals, insisting that the UK maintains the “gold standard of ‘A’ levels”. Blair has also talked in the same terms. It is clearly a phrase much used by those important focus groups.

Blair and Howard should read a little economic history. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the British economy was decimated as a result of politicians trying to maintain the “gold standard”. To use a term like that reveals that politicians are not willing to re-think issues in the modern world. The idea of ‘A’ levels belongs to a much earlier age when a small group of individuals from public and grammar schools went on to university.

One of the problems of the National Curriculum was that it did not take into consideration post 16 education. As a result they had to tamper with ‘A’ levels a few years ago. This only made matters worse. The same thing will happen if they attempt to integrate the new diplomas into the current system of GCSE and ‘A’ level exams. As Tomlinson correctly points out, you will not improve the status of vocational exams while you still have ‘A’ levels.

Before discussing the Tomlinson proposals I think it is necessary to work out what you are trying to do with your educational system. I personally believe that the educational system should mainly be concerned with producing students that have the skills necessary to function effectively as adult citizens. It is also hoped that they still retain the desire to learn. I would rather be involved in producing a life-long learner than an apathetic student with a batch of ‘A’ grades.

Of course I accept the school has a role in creating individuals to go into the worlds of work and further education. Assessment has to be part of this. However, this assessment should be based on finding out how much progress the student has made. It should never be about de-moralizing and de-motivating students and teachers. That is what the current system does - and it has to go. Assessment has to be placed into the hands of the teachers. There is evidence that Tomlinson has recognized this fact and the idea of teacher assessment is central to his proposals.

I have personally been assessed by a variety of different methods over the last 50 years. I have only been impressed with one of these methods. That was when I was studying for a research degree. I chose the subject I wanted to study. I was then assigned a tutor who was an expert in the academic area I had chosen. He read my work, chapter by chapter, and at each stage made suggestions on how it could be improved. When it was finished, it was read by another member of the faculty. The thesis was then sent away to an external expert. After he had read it I was cross-examined about my work by the three experts. As anyone else who has gone through this procedure knows, this process guarantees that you have a full understanding of the subject matter.

If this approach is acceptable as a means of assessing a student who has reached the highest level of academic study, why should it not be used with younger students.

Let me give you an idea how it might work. Imagine a Year 9 group studying the industrial revolution. At first students could be given an overview of the topic. Then the students could do an in-depth study of one aspect of the industrial revolution. For example, the use of child labour in the textile factories. Here is an example of simulation on child labour.

Each student is given the name of an individual that was involved in the debate that was taking place at this time. This includes factory owners, factory reformers, child workers, parents, journalists, religious leaders and doctors. The student is then given an instruction sheet with details of what they need to do. This includes writing an account of their character and a speech on the subject of child labour.

Each character had an entry on the web. This provides them with biography and sources that enables the student to discover his or her views on the issue. The website also includes information under headings such as factory pollution, parish apprentices, factory food, punishments, working hours, accidents and physical deformities. There are also web pages available on the machines the children used and the type of work they did in the factory.

The exercise helps to explain the complexity of child labour in the 19th century. The students discover that some factory owners, such as John Fielden and John Wood, were actually leaders of the pressure group trying to bring an end to child labour. At the same time, social reforming journalists like Edward Baines were totally opposed to any attempt by Parliament to regulate the use of labour. Even doctors did not agree that it would damage a child's health to stand for twelve hours a day in a factory where windows were kept closed and the air was thick with the dust from the cotton. What the children discover from their in-depth studies is why the individuals felt the way that they did. In the debate that follows, this is revealed to the rest of the class.

See the following for the actual simulation.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Twork.htm

After this the students are given the opportunity to do an in-depth study of one aspect of the industrial revolution. Ideally the students should be given a wide choice. Each topic would have its own web page. Each topic would have a list of different questions for the student to select from. This page will provide ideas about how to tackle the subject as well as links to other resources. This will include details of relevant books (hopefully these will also be available in the school library).

I believe that this web material should be produced by teachers and paid for by the government (a far better way of spending e-learning credits).

Like with the PhD thesis, the teacher will work closely with the student on the project. This will enable the teacher to assess how much each student is learning. This will of course be very time-consuming, however, time will be saved by a dramatic reduction in classroom lessons. This approach will also encourage the student to become an independent learner (vitally important if you are to fulfil the objective of them becoming a life-long learner).

Finally the student presents the information to the rest of the class. At this stage the student becomes a teacher (the best way for anybody to learn – see below for details of research that backs up this statement). This will involve the student answering questions about their work (again, like the PhD thesis).

http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index...?showtopic=1118

I see no reason why this approach should not be used right through the school. These various projects will build up towards their overall diploma.

Idealistic? Yes. Expensive? Yes, initially, but no more expensive than other recent experiments. After all, any change in the education system, always costs a lot of money. Unfortunately, in the past, most of it has been wasted.

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The school standards minister, David Miliband, said recently that the reforms would be assured because everyone has a stake in them. The fact is that everyone has a different "stake". Given the scope of the reforms, it certainly wouldn't be surprising if all parties found something to praise in the course of the consultation. But the potentially treacherous weakness of the proposals lies in the fact that, once launched, their success will depend upon them finding acceptance, in their entirety, with all parties.

What will happen when the reforms have to find their way in the real world, with all the conflicting forces that will be exerted on them? It is easy to see that the carefully devised system of diplomas may quickly start to tear asunder. What interest will the Russell group universities, or the influential public schools, have in the accreditation of work experience, or other less "rigorous" parts of the new qualifications system?

Pretty scant is the probable answer. I phoned up admissions tutors in universities across the country to find out. I learned that, understandably, they have quite enough to do at the moment in coping with the implications of the Schwartz report on university admissions, and with foundation degrees, to give much time to Tomlinson.

One tutor who was up to speed found the thought of teacher assessment dismaying: "Ucas references are already hyped and this will just make matters worse." He added that, while parts of the proposals looked great in terms of personal development, from a university admissions perspective, these elements weren't necessarily of much use.

Implicit in this latter judgment is a key distinction latent within the proposals. Some parts of the Tomlinson diplomas will act as currency, enabling a student to "purchase" a place in higher education or a job in the workplace. Other bits are more like medals than coinage. A student may very well take justifiable pride in them, but there their practical use may end.

It is absolutely critical that we ascertain which bits are which before a single young person's future is made to depend upon it. The "piloting" of the Tomlinson proposals will, of course, have to test the intrinsic elements of the reforms: how the curriculum and assessment actually work in practice. But the memory of Curriculum 2000 is still fresh enough to remind us that the extrinsic issues - the massive influence of the universities and private sector, among others - are equally significant in dictating how the reforms will actually end up working.

To take account of this, a reasonable sample from across the full range of institutions likely to deliver the diplomas must be invited to say how they would actually implement them. Second, these results must be tested with HE institutions and employers. It is important that the agency tasked with this research must not be the original Tomlinson working group. We have to find out how things will actually work in practice, unprejudiced by how anyone especially wants them to work. Only when we're confident about this, can a funding model be devised.

It is to practicalities of this kind that attention must turn as soon as the Tomlinson recommendations are launched. Thus far, there has been little detail about what "piloting" actually means or will involve. And the assurance that implementation of the reforms will take a number of years to accomplish is, in the end, of no more solace than to suggest that the fate of Beagle was secure because Mars is distant.

My bet is that the proposals will look very different as a result of the thorough testing with the market that is now needed. But far better that and a soft landing than a gung-ho contempt for the forces that will actually shape how the Tomlinson reforms work once they're approved. That can only end in disaster for the reforms, for sixth form colleges and, worst of all, for our young people.

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John asked for reaction from abroad, so here's a quick, highly personal, view of the Swedish system.

In Sweden there are no exams of the sort that would be recognised as such in the UK. There are some 'central tests' in the core subjects of Swedish, English and Maths which are set centrally, but these are only used for advisory purposes. The grades which govern which programme you're going to study in the 6th Form, and the ones which represent a final 'judgement' on you when you finish your 6th Form programme, are set by the teachers in your school. There is a certain amount of co-ordination between local schools, but this doesn't happen within any kind of legal framework.

How schools examine their pupils is up to them, but the commonest system is a mix of coursework + tests which are set and marked by the class teacher herself. There are no marks or grades in any subject until the 8th class (compulsory secondary education finishes with the 9th class, so 8th class pupils are 14-15).

Entrance to university takes place according to a complex series of quotas, with some students entering on the strength of their 6th Form grades, some entering as a result of a national entrance exam, which is set and marked centrally, and some entering as a result of other weighted criteria, which are designed to ensure wide representation in higher education.

One of the main problems with this system for me as a university teacher is the relative arbitrary nature of grading in schools. The construction and running of a system of testing is incredibly complex, if you're going to do it right, and I don't feel that many Swedish teachers are up to the job. This is no criticism of them - more a reflection of the fact that teaching and testing require different skills. One result is that younger students who start with the same apparent grade can be widely different in terms of what they can actually understand and do.

Another result is, of course, that if you have 'no system', a whole set of unspoken assumptions about what knowledge is come to the fore. One common complaint from university teachers of Physics, for example, is that the schools have taught students certainties (which are often tested by multiple-choice questions), certainties which happen to wrong, and have to be 'unlearned' before the students can start studying real Physics.

As usual, it is the writers of the textbooks who determine what actually goes on in the majority of classrooms, and in my subject of English the textbook writers are still firmly stuck in grammar-translation, which, in my view, results in a situation where "Swedish pupils learn English despite school, not because of it" (to quote one of Sweden's leading academics in the field of language learning). I often tell teachers that that's OK by me, because it means that I'll always have a job, putting right the misconceptions that the school system has produced.

However, my final conclusion is that each society gets the education system (and testing system) it wants. One of the discussion topics that my tutor, Glyn Bradbury, set us at Goldsmiths' when I was doing my PGCE in 1976 was "why do we have exams in schools?". We students came up with all sorts of good reasons like "to see what pupils know", then Glyn asked to consider the fact that society can't afford to send everyone to Oxford to receive the kind of treatment John described from his research degree. We need therefore some way of reducing the number of pupils who are able to use those specialist resources … which is what exam systems are for.

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We have a similar system up to Yr 10 here in Tasmania. No exams until Yr11/12. Teachers assess through a varirty of tasks according to "calibrated standards". However, our Yr 11/12 pre-tertiary subjects carry points and Unis require varying numbers of points for entry into each faculty - eg teaching training requires fewer points than engineering!!! Yet, Australia comes well within the top bracket of PISA and TIMS results.

I think I've mentioned before that we have just moved to an entirely new, revolutionary curriculum and completely revolutionised assessment and reporting formats for all grades from K-10. The proverbial sh*t hit the proverbial fan today, when the shadow Minister for Education was fed (or had leaked to him) the highly complex nature of all this and the unintelligible language of the reporting and the results of a recent survey done by my union which showed that 90% of teachers surveyed said they didn't understand how to do it. I have been telling the Minister this for the last 9 months and have been ignored, but very different when the opposition challenges you in parliament!! Our local papers will be full of it tomorrow and I will no doubt be the temporary centre of attention of local media, all begging for some contoversy. Why don't they listen to the common sense of experienced teachers? Rhetorical question only!!

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I suppose you are aware of the French system which has some good and not so good points. The equivalent to the GCSE exam, the Brevet is considered by most (including myself) as a phoney exam. For most students not passing doesn't really have an incidence on the rest of their school career. Pupils only sit 3 subjects: French, Maths and History-Geography at the end of year 3 (15 year-olds). Doing years 4 and 3 all results are taken into account (with the 'continuous assessment' that our parents fought for amongst other things in May 68, during the 'Events'). Then after a complicated calculation, pupils are given the number of points they need to make up to reach the pass rate of 80%. Good students can actually already have achieved 80% before sitting the exam, but they still have to sit and gain a mark as non justified absences and 0 are disqualifying. The Brevet has replaced the old Certif. which resembled the old-style O-Levels. I heard that the thinking behind keeping it is to give pupils a taste of what exams are as officials feel that waiting for the Bac 2 years later would put too much pressure on pupils.

In year 1 (Lower 6th), all students take French (one written and one oral exams) and some sections also take some minor subjects e.g. STT (Sciences et Techniques Tertiaires) take History-Geography. Then at the end of the Terminale, students take all other subjects (about 10 depending on options).

Each 'section' of the Bac is a bloc of options. The main 3 are as follows:

L=Literary: mainly French, Languages (at least 2), Hist-Geo, philosophy and the common subjects: maths, biology, physics, PE

S: Scientific: mainly science and maths and the common subjects: languages (often 2), H-G, PE, French and philosophy

E=Economic: mainly economics and business studies and maths, and the common subjects: languages (at least 2), H-G, some science and PE.

I like the French system as I felt that it allowed me to o what I liked but was still L series and I loved the fact that most of the time I was studying literary subjects but still had to exercise and also still had to do a bit of everything. I was never going to be great mathematician and I certainly couldn't have tried to become a doctor, but it gave me a sense of entity and balance. It also felt like a nice break between highly specialised lessons, for example learning how reproduction works for rabbits was a nice break between Rabelais and the in-depth study of the rise of neo-nazism in Germany (in German)!!

I really hope that when I hear that Britain is moving towards a Baccalaureate system we could end up with a much more balanced system and pupils leaving school with a good general knowledge.

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Yes, as predicted, I hit the front page of our local paper this morning.

THE MERCURY October 21 2004

SCHOOL SHOCK

by Michelle Paine

TEACHERS are unprepared for a radical overhaul of Tasmania's educational system.

New assessments for students from kindergarten to Year 10 will be enforced from next year.

Traditional subject divisions have been replaced with topics of thinking, communicating and social responsibility.

But in a survey of 1334 teachers across the state by the Australian Education Union, 92 per cent said they did not have good knowledge of the marking system.

More than half of primary teachers and three-quarters of secondary ones surveyed said they had little or no knowledge of the new system.

The Essential Learnings Framework must start in all schools next year, partly because the Tasmanian Certificate of Education has been abolished.

Opposition education spokesman Peter Gutwein released the survey yesterday.

"If teachers are struggling with this new, obviously bureaucrat-driven reporting system, how does Ms (Education Minister Paula) Wriedt expect parents to make head or tail of their child's report cards?" Mr Gutwein said.

AEU Tasmania branch president Jean Walker said the union had been saying schools were ill-prepared for the changes.

"We believe there's a significant number of teachers who won't be ready to do this validly," she said.

"One of the big obstacles is that they've removed the TCE."

From next year, government schools must assess four key areas - inquiry, numeracy, literacy and well-being. More will follow in 2006.

They fall into five "essentials" - thinking, communicating (eg, literacy and numeracy), personal futures (ethics and well-being), social responsibility and world futures.

The new learning replaces conventional division of subjects into mathematics, English or science - and nothing is compulsory.

Instead, "cross-curricular units" will be studied by drawing on various disciplines.

For example, learning about water could draw on maths, science and geography.

"Some have dropped the traditional subjects altogether, instead they have cross-curricular units," Mrs Walker said.

"Some have small amounts of basic subjects and others are retaining separate subjects, they're all different. The biggest change is in assessment."

She said the new program had been taken up more keenly by schools that had a lot of students "not engaged".

"Some schools are ready because they've been online (with Essential Learnings) for four years, but some have only been on since last year. The union doesn't have problems with the new curriculum, it's the timeframe."

Mrs Walker said union members would be voting on the changes.

Mr Gutwein said teachers and principals were also having to come to grips with the major restructure from six districts to three branches.

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Initially, I thought I saw a glimmer of hope in the TR that might lighten the hearts of language teachers in the UK, but I now think I was mistaken. Foreign languages are in a disastrous situation in the UK – you can read more about this in the Modern Languages section of this Forum. Children can give up studying a foreign language at 14 – which means that if they started the language at age 11 they are unlikely to have learned enough of the language for it to be of any practical use. 350-400 hours of study are recommended by the Council of Europe to achieve Threshold Level (CEF B1), i.e. the point at which you begin to communicate with a degree of confidence in a variety of situations. This is equivalent to Higher GCSE.

I see nothing in the TR that changes the situation whereby senior management teams in schools can juggle the subject options for their own convenience, i.e. as they do at the moment in order to make their performance tables stats look good. On the plus side, the core skills of Maths, Literacy and ICT are a good thing, but most European countries would include knowledge of a foreign language as a core skill. We have chosen – once again – to remain resolutely monolingual. Déjà vu!

I am not an avid supporter of The Daily Telegraph, but this leading article (19 Oct 04) contains some food for thought:

http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion.../ixopinion.html

At the heart of Tomlinson, there is a colossal non sequitur. By requiring less academic pupils to learn only basic maths, functional literacy, "communication" and computer skills, it is hoped that more of them will discover an aptitude for "employment and adult life".

But why should they? If science, literature, history, languages, music, art, geography, religion and politics are no longer considered essential attributes of humanity, then the effect will be to accelerate the infantilisation of adolescence. The motivated will still study these subjects, but the rest will prefer soft options.

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Graham quotes:

If science, literature, history, languages, music, art, geography, religion and politics are no longer considered essential attributes of humanity, then the effect will be to accelerate the infantilisation of adolescence. The motivated will still study these subjects, but the rest will prefer soft options

Exactly my point. Pupils have to choose 4 or 5 options at my school on top of their core subjects, and my fear is that some pupils will end up taking such combinations as drama, art, music, PE and, DT. Don't get me wrong, I am not against the teaching of those subjects and I think they help many students develop their creative and artistic skills and build self-confidence, but what about the children's academic achievement? Is such a combination balanced? Is it good for students to study only 'performing' subjects? Not only do we need to answer those questions for the welfare of our youngsters but we also need to ask ourselves how pupils justify their choices and why they make such choices to start with. I think it is far too early at 14 years old to ask children to make life-orientating decisions. They will base their judgment on whether the lesson is fun and/or easy not on the usefulness of a subject in their future career! As a languages teachers this is very close to home. You hear every day that languages are very important these days at the time of globalisation, the EU etc..., yet fewer and fewer children carry on with their language after KS3. It makes me wonder whether there is any use at all in teaching languages to profoundly monolingual people... SIGH!

:wacko:

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Well said, Audrey!

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The situation Audrey describes is precisely what happened in Sweden when the previous government abolished the former programmes at 6th Form level, and introduced a system which gave much more weight to individual subject assessments. Since qualification for university was based on an average of all the subject assessments, 6th formers quite rationally opted for subjects where they could get high grades fairly easily.

Modern languages (and science and technology) went into an immediate decline. Nowadays the numbers of students studying French and German at university level is catastrophically low … which means that soon there won't be anyone to teach those subjects at school either.

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I despair...

I can only draw a paralell between what David says and the literacy/grammar problems encountered in British schools today. As you know, English isn't taught in British schools through grammatical analysis (unlike French and German in their respective countries). There has been an effort in the past few years to address the issue, unfortunately, for a large part, grammar has to be taught by teachers who were never taught it, therefore leaving pupils quite confused about what they have to learn... This then has a dramatical knock-on effect on the teaching and learning of languages where we rely VERY heavily on pupils' grasp of grammatical terms and systems. I'll illustrate my point with a quick example taken from my personal experience B) ! I teach a top set Yr 11 French. They are very bright pupils and for the large part master the grammatical part quite well. However, when faced with questions concerning the difference between the Perfect and the Imperfect (passe-compose and imparfait) I needed to revert to grammatical terms, however, my pupils got even more confused when I told them that the Perfect is a COMPOUND tense consisting of an AUXILIARY and a PAST-PARTICIPLE. It totally threw the poor things!! I then found myself totally unable to explain in plain English what they meant!!

I can only hope that it may get better in the (not so distant) future...

:(

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I'm not so sure that the problem is connected with a specific way of teaching foreign languages, though.

When Swedish pupils learn Swedish it's all parsing … leaving almost no time for anything else. A problem we encounter at university level is that many young Swedes are culturally virtually illiterate. They also lack confidence in their abilities in their native language, since at school they learned they were crap at that too.

French and German (and English, come to that), however, are taught almost exclusively via grammar-translation, so you get the problem that 'successful' pupils, who've passed all the exams and can tell you all the metagrammatical terms (in Swedish) for every word in the language, can't actually read a French newspaper or order a cup of coffee in German. As for English "Swedish pupils learn English despite school, not because of it" (Eie Ericsson - one of Sweden's leading academics in the field of language didactics).

What Swedes get taught is: you have to learn the grammar of Swedish (i.e. learn to parse it in an old-fashioned, pre-Chomskyian way, since native speakers do not, by definition, make grammatical mistakes) so that you can learn the grammar of foreign languages (a quote from a widely-used secondary school textbook in Swedish).

So … the Past Simple in English is called the 'imperfekt' (e.g. I ate) … and when they learn French, they also learn that what we know as passé-composé is also called 'imperfekt' (e.g. j'ai mangé, I suppose). And the French 'imparfait' is called 'imperfekt - pågående form' (continuous … but the word 'pågående was invented by Swedish academics, since it doesn't really have a referent in everyday language). And, of course the English Past Continuous (I was eating) is called 'imperfekt - pågående form' too!). Swedes, like many other speakers of English as a second language, have particular difficulties distinguishing between Simple and Continuous Tenses.

In other words, many of my poor Swedish students are completely confused about how both Swedish AND foreign languages actually work by the time they've finished 'learning' languages at school. As the expert once said: it's a good thing children don't learn to ride bicycles at school, or they'd still be walking.

So … perhaps the fact that pupils in Britain don't learn to parse English is a blessing in disguise - at least it's only the foreign language they're confused about!

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