From education to employment

Continuing FE News exclusive Friday edition

If CILT were to write a strategy for excellence in languages in the further education sector, we could do worse than to take the National Strategy for England as our starting point.

The strategy outlines numerous actions for increasing the number of language learners within all sectors of education and for all age-groups, including post-16 and adults. There is reference to increasing opportunities for learning languages alongside other subjects, including vocational subjects, for increased work-based learning and engagement with employers as well as the social and cultural value of taking languages in Further Education. Everything is here for us to work from, so here are a few ideas from CILT, the National Centre for Languages about how we would build on what is already happening to support languages in FE (assuming, of course, that sufficient funding were available).

For the 14-19 year olds we would like to see languages included within all lines of learning of the new specialised Diplomas, preferably as a mandatory element within the Principal or Generic learning – what better skill for employment in a global market could a young person have? (CILT is already working closely with Sector Skills Councils to get the best possible position for languages within the new diplomas).

We would also like to embed a language element within all full-time vocational courses (for all age-groups), with high-quality teaching and relevant content and materials based on close collaboration between language teachers and vocational tutors.

We would like to ensure an entitlement for all students in FE, including those not following vocational routes, to learn a language in addition to their studies. In both cases, the language could be offered at a lower level to the main programme of study and could be continued into Higher Education. CILT would continue its work with all educational sectors to help achieve better progression routes and collaboration between sectors. Schools and further education would work together to ensure progression and boost motivation. Higher education instiutions would also work to support these aims.

To help achieve good retention and achievement, CILT would help and encourage colleges to raise awareness of the value of languages for all areas of study (not just Travel and Tourism), leading to increased commitment from vocational heads and senior managers (and therefore from the learner too).

On the issue of increased motivation, CILT would encourage innovation in every way and would ensure that funding was available to set up networks to get new initiatives going. This work would build on and expand CILT’s current national networks for the 14-19 sector which are already spreading good practice in terms of curriculum models, teaching and learning, use of technology and collaboration. Clearly language teachers and managers need proper time, advice and support to develop new approaches.

We would be particularly interested in innovation with regards to teaching and learning as well as delivery models, in order to try out different methods from the traditional 1-2 hours per week of classroom-only delivery – this approach doesn”t always work well with certain groups, such as 16-19 year olds who are hauled out of their more vocational environments. The exploration of more flexible learning modes, including those using new technology, such as blended learning, use of open learning centres, videolinks with colleges nationally and overseas would be enthusiastically encouraged and funded as appropriate. Arrangements for block and intensive learning, development of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) and team-teaching with other subject teachers would also be supported.

In order to inspire confidence, increase motivation and raise cultural awareness in learners, CILT, the National Centre for Languages would encourage a higher take-up of European-funded cross-cultural and work-related overseas trips linked to programmes of study, with an element of preparatory language training as a pre-requisite (CILT’s newly-developed Work Placement Toolkit could help greatly with this). Figures show that many more people overseas are taking advantage of these schemes than within the UK. Our young people just don”t have the confidence to travel because they lack language skills.

We would ensure that funding opportunities existed for adults to continue learning languages and that colleges collaborated in order to offer a wide range of language courses and make the best use of resources.

Employer engagement with languages is crucial. We would ensure that colleges had the tools to make the economic case for languages even more strongly and encourage colleges to link up with employers to create opportunities for work-based learning and mentoring. Meanwhile CILT would continue its work with business via the Regional Language Networks and via our links with Sector Skills Councils in order to help with this.

Finally, but most importantly, we would instigate robust support systems for language teachers in FE. We would devise a strategy for building capacity of full and part-time language tutors, including in less traditional languages such as Chinese, Arabic and other world languages. A strategy for training and CPD would be created to have the maximum impact on quality and innovation. This strategy would include training vocational tutors with linguistic skills to teach languages.

There are myriad ideas which come to us daily from FE practitioners for improving the status of languages within the FE sector. CILT would welcome the opportunity to give some of them a go.

Sharon Czudak, Language Teaching Adviser (14-19/FE) CILT [The National Centre for Languages].

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