Saturday, April 07, 2007


It has apparently just become clear to those who determine this country's Education Policy, that the number of pupils learning languages in schools (other than Texting I assume), is not so much slowing down, but falling off a cliff. If you believe the numbers, 51% of pupils now take a language at GCSE, as against 80% in 2000. This follows, in the way day follows night, the decision by the Government to allow pupils the chance to drop languages, in 2004.

Having made the decision three years ago, and now, having seen such the resulting dramatic reduction, the well-oiled machinery of the Governmental U-Turn has been pushed into warp-drive. 2,000 new primary school teachers have been trained in languages over the last four years, and the Government is now pushing to spend £50 million in an attempt to get language teaching and teacher training back into the mainstream. If that’s joined up Government, I’d love to see the disjointed version, but there you go.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but it does seem so simple, that learning another language today is not so much a desire, but an absolute necessity for this country’s young people if we are to regain just a part of the share of world business we have been losing for so long. And, as an aside, I have to say that, if I was advising someone starting out today, I would put Mandarin at the top of their list.

It does make you wonder just a bit to hear that anyone would even go down the road of easing the possibility of such a notoriously insular race as the British not taking French, German or other languages, so I suppose we should be grateful that they are attempting to turn this particular error round.

However, reading what the Education Secretary said in response to some of the Teacher-led background noise surrounding the installation of foreign language teaching in primary schools, you read that he says “…all seven-year-olds in England will have to learn a language to encourage them to continue as teenagers.” Just read those words again, and get the full implication of what he is suggesting.

Now, I have little faith in most of today’s Cabinet, but I have always thought Alan Johnson to one of the least frightening and most human of all of them. But here we are again, seeing the surrepticious release, on the day before Good Friday, of what, to me, seems like a rather radical new Government policy of selective culling of the nation’s youth. Leaving aside the issue of whether it is or is not an idea worth debating, you would have thought that before the Education Minister announced such a plan, the subject would have at least had some air-time in Parliament. Perhaps it’s the first phase of the Government’s Long Term Plan to solve this country’s Pensions issue.
You could see this as another example where Life is imitating Art, but in “Logan’s Run”, at least they let you get to 30.


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