THE PRESIDENT of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching called this week for foreign language proficiency to be deemed a key skill.
Frank Pignatelli, director of education in the former Strathclyde Region, who was a modern languages teacher, is a member of the inquiry investigating the state of modern languages in Britain set up by the Nuffield Foundation under the chairmanship of Trevor McDonald, the ITN newscaster. The inquiry team held its Scottish conference yesterday (Thursday).
Mr Pignatelli, now chief executive with Scottish Business in the Community, drew the analogy with computing as a subject which also served other areas.
"It's no longer a case of taking either science or languages. People are now looking for scientists with a language as well as accountants and engineers who can speak other languages."
MEMO FROM HMITAKE A LESSON IN BECOMING VERY GOOD
The quality of teaching was described as "very good" in only 15 per cent of primary schools, 10 per cent of secondary departments in S1-S2 and 15 per cent of departments working with S3-S4. By contrast, 85 per cent of pupils' learning in S5-S6 was good or very good.
Inspectors said there were lessons to be learnt from the very good classes.
In primary schools
* Good teaching techniques were transferred from other areas of the curriculum.
* Pupils were frequently required to memorise text in songs and stories, which teachers also used as settings for their teaching.
* Pupils were taught enthusiastically and at a brisk pace.
* Pupils' attention was drawn to similarities and contrasts with English.
* All pupils were involved in questioning and repeating words and phrases, making different demands on pupils of different abilities.
* Praise was used to confirm correct answers and provide encouragement.
* Pupils were expected to perform well.
* Lessons had a distinct structure.
* There were clear purposes for paired speaking which was kept brief and focused when practising language.
* Pupils were helped by breaking the foreign language heard into component parts, pointing out patterns and encouraging them to vary the pattern.
* Pupils' attention was to pronunciation and intonation rules so they could connect sound to writing.
* Use imaginative touches such as song, rap and chanting.
* Clearly structured lessons taught at a brisk pace.
* Regular issuing and checking effective pieces of homework.
* Helping pupils to analyse their performances against grade related criteria, the work of other pupils and their own work in S1-S2.
* Sensitive interaction with pupils and teaching frequently to the whole class or groups.
* Substantial subject content.
* Methodologies suited to the maturing age of the pupils.
* Effective use of both the foreign language and English.
* Using different kinds of writing as a support for learning.