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A-levels are not "dire"

An article in The Guardian penned by Lucy Ward caught my eye this morning. The starting point was a survey of students which suggested that most language students cannot do more than understand basic phrases. The thrust of the article was to reinforce the view that languages are in a state of crisis in English schools.

One point in the piece attracted my attention in particular. This was the attack by Katrin Kohl, professor of German literature at Oxford who labelled the current A-level syllabus "dire". Kohl was a member of the ALCAB panel tasked by Michael Gove to reform MFL A-levels. The DfE syllabus produced from their report is now in consultation, having met with a great deal of ire from the language teaching community.

Kohl is quoted as saying that the reformed qualification is “supposed to be an A-level, not some kind of dumbed-down Berlitz course".

I'm not sure how well placed Professor Kohl is to judge the current A-level, but I can assure her that very few teachers or students consider it "dire". On the contrary, students are well challenged and enjoy their A-level courses very much. I know. I taught them for over 30 years. The Berlitz reference is frankly ridiculous and a little insulting.

We shall see quite soon how the consultation on ALCAB's syllabus has gone. I was interested to read towards the end of the article that the proposal to examine parts of the syllabus in English (we are talking the literature/film essay here) is "controversial and may be rejected". I am curious to know where Lucy Ward picked up that suggestion.

I remain hopeful that Ofqual will very soon report accurately what teachers and associations have thought of the ALCAB A-level. If the consultation has been negative, which I am assuming it was, will they be prepared to review it or make suignficant conscessions to common sense?

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