Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Protest over OCR decision to scrap Asset languages courses

Qualifications widely used in schools in 20 foreign languages­ including Hindi, Cantonese and Tamil ­are facing the axe under plans drawn up by one of the major exam boards.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 6 September

Protest over OCR decision to scrap Asset languages courses


Qualifications widely used in schools in 20 foreign languages­ including Hindi, Cantonese and Tamil ­are facing the axe under plans drawn up by one of the major exam boards.

The Asset languages courses will be scaled back to just French, German, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin, according to OCR, with courses in “community languages” scrapped.

The exam board said the decision was taken because low pupil take-up meant they were no longer financially viable. But the move has provoked a furore among teachers, who want to be able to reward pupils’ abilities in languages that fall outside the mainstream curriculum.

An online petition started by Terry Lamb, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield and board member of the Speak to the Future languages campaign, has already been signed by more than 1,200 people. It calls for OCR to reconsider its plans and demands that the government does more to promote community languages.

“One of the great achievements of Asset languages has been to make no distinction between the status of languages or the status of learners: an intermediate level in Bengali is exactly equivalent to an intermediate level in French or German,” the petition states.

Asset qualifications are currently available in a range of languages where there is no GCSE option, such as Cantonese, Somali, Swedish or Yoruba. The scheme also gives pupils the opportunity to gain qualifications in some of the world’s major languages, such as Arabic, Hindi or Portuguese, at a lower level than the GCSEs on offer. More than 400,000 qualifications have been awarded since the scheme was launched in 2005.

The OCR decision follows changes to the way secondary school league tables are assessed, which mean Asset intermediate-level qualifications no longer count towards league table scores.

Steven Fawkes, a trustee of the Association for Language Learning, said the government had to shoulder responsibility for the demise of the qualifications. “OCR says it is a decision based on money, but it was political will that got it started and now the political will is not seeing it through,” he said.



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