Skip to main content

So how can we get more young people studying modern languages at university?

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/31/drop-in-university-language-applications?CMP=twt_gu

Apparently, despite tuition fees, university applications in the UK are at record levels. One notable subject area which has struggled in recent years, however, is modern languages. What could we do to get more young people continuing with languages in higher education and thus help to address the shortage of linguists which business reports?
  • Firstly, all the while the A-level/post 16 academic curriculum is so narrow, various subjects will always struggle to attract recruits. MFL is not alone. The last twenty years has also seen a sharp decline in students studying, for example, history and geography. We need bums on seats at A-level to secure a larger number of undergraduates. To address this we need to broaden the A-level curriculum which we failed to do in 2000. A recent report has recommended we do the same, but will fall on governmental deaf ears. The traditional A-level is a protected species and, apparently, a global brand.
  • Secondly, we need to make a qualification in a language prerequisite for entry to at least (and maybe all) some universities. UCL's current policy sets the example. If pupils knew that to go to a Russell Group university, or better a wider pool of universities, then they would flock in greater numbers to GCSE and, one would assume, A-level. 
  • Thirdly, we need to keep ramming home the messages about the benefits to one's personal growth and job prospects of learning a language. We have been building up STEM subjects for years and need to do the same for languages.
  • Lastly, we need to finally address the issue of severe grading at both GCSE and A-level. MFL is nearly half a grade harder than maths and English at GCSE. At A-level it is one of the hardest subjects along with sciences.  Too many schools are reporting that students do not choose languages because it is harder to get a good grade. That's not right or fair.

Two policies which are unlikely to produce results are primary school MFL (too thin, too inexpertly taught, not enough progression) and compulsory MFL at GCSE. The latter would be positive in as far as more students would get to a low intermediate level, but most would still continue to dislike languages and not wish to carry on. Don't forget, languages are hard and will always only attract a minority in the UK which speaks the world lingua franca.

All the while we continue to produce too few linguists at least we will be able, as in other fields, to fill the employment gaps with migrants, but this is not really good enough, is it? Too few young people are reaping the rewards that an education in a second language produce.

Comments

  1. Although I agree with much of what you say Steve (certainly on grading and the importance of increasing the number of linguists) there are a few more positive things we should add:

    -the potential for combining language learning with broader communication skills including digital literacies for all levels. We have an expressed requirement from businesses for young people who have better interpersonal and technological skills.
    A broader choice of A level curriculum could help to address this.

    -Emphasising the ease of language learning in today's shrinking world. It has never been easier to organise connections at a distance as we are seeing with e-twinning and #globalclassroom initiatives bringing greater authenticity to the classroom. This is a challenge we need to embrace.

    Speak to the Future http://www.speaktothefuture.org/
    is a cross sector campaign to promote the language capabilities of the UK and to include them in creating a STEM+ agenda, enhancing the core literacies for the future.
    (BTW don't hold your breath on HE entry requirements!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for commenting Teresa. I'm not sure I get your first point. I always thought learning a language improved communication skills along the way. I take the second point, although, for me, it falls into the category of enhancing rather than fundamentally changing, if you see what I mean! I like thew idea of a "STEM+ agenda".

      I'm not quite sure why the traditional "gold standard" A-level seems untouchable. Universities protecting their own subject areas? Fear of dumbing down? (Hard to claim that when we know how challenging IB is.) England/Wales is an outlier in this regard. Yes, not holding breath on university entry requirement. To study French at uni you have to have GCSE maths (is that right?). To study maths you don't have to have a language. This reflects our cultural bias.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’(http://pdcinmfl.com). The point i…