Modern languages in sharp decline in schools


A leading head teacher and educationalist has warned that modern languages are close to extinction in British schools, because of a reluctance to learn by students.

Dr Anthony Seldon said that, despite being more multicultural than ever, the UK has a "little Britain" attitude, which threatens international competitiveness and overseas partnerships.

He said:  "Our record in language learning is uniquely bad in the developed world. We cannot simply assume the rest of the world will learn English to accommodate us.This is a problem for society as much as an issue simply for schools.

"The perception in schools is that modern languages are hard and it is more difficult to gain good grades at them than in other subjects. We need to change this urgently.

"We cannot lose the plot at a time when other countries are expanding their language teaching.

"We desperately need to shift that culture and dramatically expand the teaching of languages which are increasingly important for our future, such as Mandarin, Arabic and Urdu, which are studied by far too few of our young people."

The number of pupils taking French and German GCSE has more than halved in the last 16 years. This summer, 154,221 pupils took French, while in 1995, 350,027 did. Some 60,887 students took German GCSE this summer, compared with 129,386 in 1995.

The number of pupils taking A-levels in French and German almost halved between 1996 and 2010. Even the take-up of Chinese has fallen in this period, from 2,234 pupils to 2,104.

There will be further analysis of language GCSE numbers now that a language has been included as a requirement of the English Baccalaureate.

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