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Academy issues warning for future

The UK’s ability to compete internationally and to promote social cohesion will be severely damaged if “urgent action” is not taken on language learning, a body has warned.

The British Academy has last week urged a return to compulsory GCSE foreign language study in response to Lord Dearing’s report, saying that without such, foreign language learning and teaching will be seriously damaged, which will have a far-reaching impact on society and the economy.

Onora O”Neill, President of the British Academy said: “A prompt return to mandatory study of foreign languages at GCSE is crucial, since otherwise schools will not have the complement of staff to teach any languages to a reasonable standard”.

The numbers of students pursuing the study of a foreign language to GCSE have fallen massively, especially since the removal of the requirement at Key Stage 4. And the Academy believes this has the potential to seriously undermine the nation’s capacity to compete internationally.

At present, the numbers taking A-level, first degree, postgraduate and teacher training qualifications in languages are insufficient to meet the UK’s current need for qualified linguists. These difficulties will become even more extreme if languages cease to be a requirement form 14 to 16.

To rectify the issue, the British Academy call for a return to compulsion at GCSE or at least that schools give strong incentives to encourage foreign language study among 14-16 year olds.

The Academy also believes that longer-term measures are needed to incentivise foreign language study and to improve teaching and learning opportunities.

Robin Jackson, the Academy’s Chief Executive added: “The decline in school level language learning results in damage to language-based degree study and also to the many other university subjects that involve linguistic skills, with further malign effects upon the standard of UK research in these fields”.

Established by Royal Charter in 1902, the British Academy is the National Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences. It is composed of Fellows elected in recognition of their distinction as scholars in the humanities and social sciences.

To read the report, click here.

Roisin Kiernan.

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