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ALCAB's response to the A-level consultation

The very brief summary of the A-level consultation on new MFL A-levels and ALCAB's response is to be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/388784/Reformed_A_level_subject_content_Government_Response.pdf

I have already blogged about the revised subject content here, but you may be interested, as I certainly was, by what emerged from the consultation.

Of the 74 individuals or bodies who responded to the question "is the draft content appropriate?" only 18 agreed.

Three recurring points to emerge from the consultation were:
  • The amount of assessment in English should be reduced to allow for a greater focus on teaching foreign language skills (39% of respondents)
  • The themes suggested by ALCAB should be amended to make them more engaging and appealing for students at this level (24% of respondents)
  • ALCAB should reconsider the compulsory study of literary works to broaden the appeal of the qualification (15% of respondents) 
They all ring true from my point of view, particularly the first two. I am slightly surprised that even more teachers did not raise these issues.

So how did ALCAB react? Well, as we now know they did respond to point one by requiring that the literature/film essays be written in the target language. The new wording of the subject content does make it clear that essay titles will have to be more demanding than they are now. They clearly remain concerned that content may not be sufficiently "cognitively challenging".

With regard to the second point, they have reduced the number of general themes from three to two. They have also amended their list of "indicative themes". The new list, which looks much like the July version, is here: https://alevelcontent.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/alcab-revised-mfl-indicative-lists-december-2014.pdf. Much of it remains barely teachable if you want stimulating, communicative lessons. At least they removed "les mathématiques françaises". I really don't think ALCAB get the point about what constitutes a good A-level lesson - they are not secondary teachers. (Note that they add that it is up to awarding bodies to choose topics within the general themes - let's hope the exam boards interpret the indicative lists freely.)

I suppose that we should be grateful that ALCAB met teachers part of the way in terms of the English essay, but in my view, it remains the case that the new A-level is highly unlikely to attract more linguists. It is still too biased towards literature and film (ALCAB's concession to include biography, journals, diaries and letters is next to useless), still stuck in the past in its reaffirmation of translation and essay, as well as its neglect of listening (you need to look at the assessment objectives to realise this). This still looks too much like an undergraduate modern languages course and not something fresh which will attract more customers to A-level MFL.

Final note: if the government changes in 2015, this new A-level will be put on hold or may never even see the light of day. Fingers crossed.

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