From education to employment

New research paints serious picture for policymakers but provides hope

Less than half of 139 colleges surveyed in research undertaken earlier this year offer language-learning opportunities in or alongside vocational courses.

Further, the statistics show that just over a third (36%) of colleges had dropped language courses having previously held them; one in four have reduced their provision and over half of those surveyed have experienced a drop in participation.

CILT, the National Centre for Languages, undertook research in June 2006 to “inform planning for languages in FE in relation to the specialist Diplomas in England and related developments in other parts of the UK”.

Further, the report states that: “We also wanted to assess the national picture in the context of changes in Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funding in England, and verify the basis for anecdotal evidence of cuts to provision and staffing”.

The report did find that, although data indicated a decline in language provision within the FE structure, “there is some evidence of innovative provision and some optimism about future prospects for languages in FE”.

The “most immediate” reason for a decline in language learning was cited as funding: the report states that local LSC funding is prioritised towards whole qualifications, and that language courses would only be supported if “embedded in the core vocational course”.

Other reasons proffered by the report point to low levels of support for languages by senior management combined with a lack of student motivation. For the latter, the research found a distinct pattern that: “The persistent view among some sections of the general public that “English is enough” is likely to play a part”.

The report concluded: “The picture painted by this survey shows a serious erosion of the languages infrastructure in the FE sector which may make it hard to reinstate provision in line with these new developments”.

“Colleges report staff reductions and in particular a loss of full-time permanent staff, including specialist language managers who are so important in championing the cause of languages. The reduction in language staff results in the loss of the skills and expertise needed to teach languages linked to vocational courses”.

“Languages will not flourish in FE as an optional extra. In order to reverse the current decline, language learning needs to be strongly promoted, properly funded and given a high priority for development within the 14″“19 specialist Diplomas. Alongside this, there needs to be a thorough, ongoing programme of staff development, linked to further investigation of ways of addressing poor student motivation”.

Isabella Moore, Director of CILT, explained: “Young people need a strong basis in languages to be able to access international experience and to have confidence as players in a competitive jobs market. There are advantages, and there are skills which should not be the preserve of an elite”.

“Our research shows that where senior management, careers staff and outside speakers are involved in promoting this message, take-up for languages improves”.

And Linda Parker, Director of the Association for Language Learning, added: “Languages are too important to simply be allowed to sink or swim in a competitive curriculum. We know Lord Dearing is looking at incentives for both schools and students to improve take up, and these surveys show just how important that is”.

For more information on the reports, including the study of Key Stage 4, click here.

Vijay Pattni.

Related FE News articles:

Government to Review Language Policy ““ 17/10/06

UK and EU to Manage Language Policy ““ 09/10/06

Language Event to Award Excellence ““ 20/09/06

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