Youth Say - David Blair
Published 26 Aug 2011 09:30 0 Comments
ENGLAND'S GSCE results were released this week and although the very high pass rate is something to be applauded, there lies within the statistics one major worry over the future of education.
Entries for French at GCSE level across England and Wales only totalled 154,000. This is in stark comparison to 2004, when the figure exceeded 300,000.
The figures for Scotland are similarly grim with only 23,548 out of a possible 159,744. 2004 saw modern foreign languages (MFL) dropped as a compulsory requirement at GCSE but nonetheless these figures are disheartening. MFL are some of the most useful skills to learn at school, as well as having huge benefits when it comes to employability.
Too often teachers are harangued by school pupils demanding to know the practical applications of certain subjects asking, "When will I ever use this in real life?" Languages are a group of subjects where the practical applications are both clear and useful to such a wide variety of people.
Where subjects like maths can be vital for certain professions but slightly irrelevant to others, MFLs are useful for those working in Britain but communicating with those abroad, those actually working abroad and even just the casual holidaymaker.
Not only does learning a MFL provide one with a whole new tool for communication but it fortifies our use of our own tongue.
It's a cliché but nonetheless true to say that when I was at school I learned far more about grammar in the French department than from my English teachers.
For instance, I challenge anyone who hasn't studied a MFL to explain the purpose of the subjunctive tense. That said, I also challenge anyone who has to explain it. I just really want to know.
The UK is derided by many Europeans and seen as very insular because of our chronic monoglottism.
In Luxembourg almost 100 per cent of the population are trilingual and it has the highest GDP per capita in the EU.
The Germans - "the powerhouse of Europe" - are also far more likely to be at least bilingual than ourselves.
Correlation does not necessarily mean causation but there does appear to be a distinct relationship between language education and economic success, which can at least partly be based on the increased ability to communicate on the global market.
Lastly, by ignoring MFLs at school pupils are putting themselves at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to higher education.
A large number of universities in Scotland still demand applicants have a MFL at Standard Grade or GSCE level, to demonstrate an ability to learn across a wide range of subjects.
Those pupils who ignore MFLs are therefore less likely to enter university and when it is pupils from private schools who are disproportionately more likely to study MFLs, this trend is going to do no favours for social mobility.
Yes, memorising verb tables is harder than pretending to be a racist tree in drama but the rewards at the end are so much greater and the feelings of satisfaction are similarly high at even beginning to master something difficult.
And universities and employers are likely to value even a lower grade in a MFL compared to an A in what can be perceived as the "softer" or "easier" subjects.
Come mes comrades and let the UK be the enfant terrible of Europe no longer (only 23,548 of you got that joke)!
All this said, I got a C in my Advanced Higher French exam so damn the French!