Modern languages need “national recovery programme” urge MPs
The UK economy is at risk of losing £48 billion a year due to a lack of linguistic skills unless a “national recovery programme” is introduced to improve foreign language teaching, a new report has revealed.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) have asked all parties to make a pledge to improve teaching and learning of modern languages in the UK or risk falling behind.
In its Manifesto for Languages document, the group of MP’s and peers have called for all political parties to make a commitment to high-quality language learning from age seven and for every child to have a good language qualification by the end of secondary education.
The document from the group comes as primary schools prepare for mandatory provision of languages at Key Stage 2, starting this September across England.
It is considered a step forward to seek commitment to improve language skills after a report in March this year found a quarter of primary schools still lacked a member of staff with anything more than a GCSE qualification in a modern foreign language.
The APPG manifesto has been presented to the heads of all main political parties, is backed by over 50 businesses, organization and universities, including HSBC, UBS Banks, the British Academy, the British Council and head’s union ASCL and the NAHT.
Chair of the APPG on modern languages Baroness Coussins said: “The next government will need to take clear, urgent and coherent action to upgrade the UK’s foreign language skills. Otherwise our young people will continue to fall behind their European and global peers in education and employability; our export growth will be stunted; our international reputation will suffer and our security, defense and diplomacy needs will be compromised.”
In her comment she emphasised that “it is not just a case of high-flyers who are missing out” but in 2011 over 27% of admin and clerical jobs went unfilled because of the language deficit.
The call to make teaching foreign languages compulsory comes shortly after university applications figures revealed a 5% drop in language candidates.
A 2012 European Commission research report revealed that languages are not well supported in the education system, with only 9% of English 15-year-olds competent in their first foreign language beyond basic level, compared to 42% across 14 European countries.
Figures show 44 universities have closed language degrees since 2000 and A-level numbers have fallen in some languages, with entries for French and German dropping by 10% in a single year.
The Department for Education (DfE) has declared that £350,000 was being spent in England in the next year to help primary and secondary teachers improve their teaching of languages.
A spokesman of DfE stated: “We are making it compulsory for children to learn a foreign language from age seven to 14, a move supported by 91% of respondents to our consultation on languages in primary schools.”
Josh De Souza Crook
Photo: Aastha Gill