Cambridge IGCSE bucks decline in Modern Foreign Languages


The take-up of modern foreign languages at secondary school level has decreased but UK school examination entries for Cambridge IGCSE French, German and Spanish are bucking this trend. Over the past year, overall entries for these subjects have increased by 39% with over 1500 more students adopting these subjects.

This significant increase follows the government’s decision in June 2010 to fund Cambridge IGCSE subjects in state schools.  In contrast, the Department for Education reported a drop in the overall numbers taking GCSE French (-12%) and German (-11%) and Spanish (-1%) in 2011.

Since its introduction to state schools take-up of Cambridge IGCSE in schools has grown rapidly – more than 750 state and independent schools now teach Cambridge IGCSE. In addition to the increased numbers studying modern foreign languages, subjects that are experiencing the highest growth in 2012 were English Language, English Literature, and History.

Cambridge modern foreign language IGCSEs are accepted by universities and employers worldwide as proof of linguistic ability and understanding. Their linear structure, like all Cambridge IGCSEs, means assessment comes at the end of the course. Teachers and students do not have the interruptions of modular assessments, allowing more time for the development of in-depth understanding of the courses being studied.

Christina Foster, Spanish teacher at St Albans High School for Girls said: “The Cambridge IGCSE curriculum has opened new doors for language teachers and students at St Albans. For those students studying IGCSE Spanish it has introduced an array of materials that has taken them on a linguistic and cultural journey of Spain and Latin America. The logical and practical structure of the course provides more freedom to teach enabling us to explore grammar and culture in more depth. The result is more confident and responsive students who enjoy their study of languages are better equipped to take their knowledge and skills to the next level.” 

Ann Puntis, Chief Executive, University of Cambridge International Examinations, said: “We cannot underestimate the importance of modern foreign languages in today’s global economy. A report published by Think Global revealed that 40% of businesses expect new employees to speak at least one other language.  It is therefore crucial to find new ways to engage and excite young people in these subjects if we’re to reverse a decline that will ultimately put the UK behind and hinder our young people’s chances of competing for the best jobs.”

It is hoped that the surge in take-up will result in more students choosing to study languages at post 16 level and potentially inform their choice of course at university. Cambridge Pre-U modern foreign language courses are already proving popular, seeing an overall increase in entries of 65% in 2011.

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