From education to employment

Party Expresses Fears for Welsh Future as Language Uptake Falls

Following on from the concerns expressed by many, including Sir Digby Jones of the Cofederation of British Industry (CBI), regarding the falling rate of interest in language education, the Liberal Democrat Party has voiced its concerns of the longer term impact of this development ““ or lack of development ““ for the Welsh economy.

And whilst the CBI seem to be optimistic of Britain’s ability “meet the challenge from the rising economies of China and India”, they very realistically view emerging economies such as India and China as “a challenge, but they also represent a huge opportunity.” It appears that this optimism needs to be tempered if the Liberal Democrat’s position on languages is anything to go by.

Life Out of the Fast Lane

The figures show a startling down ““ turn in the number of students enrolling in GCSE languages. The number of students in Wales deciding to sit a modern language GCSE has fallen from 46 per cent in 1995 to 32 per cent in 2004. This has caused a great deal of concern, with the Liberal Democrats saying that a shortage of students studying foreign languages will put Wales in the “slow lane of the global economy.”

The chairperson of the Cardiff Assembly’s education committee, Peter Black, has stated that something must be done. “It is galling to discover that less than a third of GCSE pupils in Wales study a modern language,” he said. “We must promote languages at the earliest possible age ““ it must become natural for Welsh children to speak three or four languages.” He spoke of some of the measures that would be needed to reverse the trend: “We must look at schools collaborating so that pupils can benefit from shared resources and encouraging”¦specialist skills in teaching languages.”

This is an ambitious target, but one which must be realised if Wales, and indeed the United Kingdom, is to prosper in the coming decades. Other nations are forging ahead with the development of their populations” potential. For an example of good practice amongst our immediate neighbours, we have only to look to Ireland, ranked eighth out of 177 countries in the United Nation’s recent human development table. This table takes into account a range of factors including life expectancy, adult literacy, income levels and educational achievement.

Perhaps it is time to do more than what the Liberal Democrats call paying “lip service to language teaching.” Perhaps we could look to our neighbours and our competitors and learn from their achievements, and our own short ““ comings.

Jethro Marsh

Speak up, whatever the language, in the FE Blog

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