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High-tech courses oust humanities

TEENAGERS are rejecting many traditional A-level courses in favour of subjects they believe will improve their career prospects, according to new exam statistics.

Computing courses, media studies and psychology A-levels leapt in popularity as students continued to move away from languages and the humanities.

But the number of students who signed up for the vocational equivalent of A-level, advanced GNVQ, has plummeted by nearly 10,750 to 80,290. Education Secretary David Blunkett has admitted the courses have failed to make the grade, and revised versions will be relaunched as vocational A-levels next month.

Numbers taking French at A-level dropped by 13.5 per cent; German by nearly 9 per cent, and Spanish by 2.6 per cent. But 7.4 per cent more candidates sat media, film and TV studies exams, while 5 per cent more studied psychology.

Computer courses saw the biggest jump in entries, with 11.4 per cent more students taking A-level; 25 per cent more taking AS-level and more than 8 per cent registering for vocational courses.

David Burrows, education group manager of Micrsoft UK said: "These positive results not only highlight the importance today's students are placing on IT and computing skills, they also demonstrate the growing ability of schools to successfully run these courses."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The very significant drop in modern language entries is evidence of a European isolationist attitude."

The growing popularity of less traditional subjects was attacked by the Campaign for Real Education, a right-wing pressure group.

Nick Seaton, its chairman, said: "Youngsters need things such as modern foreign languages and geography to make their way in the world. The vast majority of people think media studies is a waste of time."

Evidence of the shift in A-level choices follows an attack on some vocational degree courses by the chief inspector of schools. Earlier this week Chris Woodhead criticised the "plethora of quasi-academic degrees". He singled out courses in media studies, pig enterprise management, knitwear and beauty therapy for criticism.

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