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Languages - our flexible friend

FLEXIBILITY in the curriculum is a good thing, permitting the development of creativity, responses to individual need and enthusiasm, and the potential for integrating alternative strategies and contexts for learning.

But how can any serious proposal at the start of the 21st century even hint that languages might not be an essential part of such flexibility?

As the Government develops its welcome skills agenda in the 14-19 sector, how can it possibly overlook the huge gap the country currently accepts as a norm in its language skills, at a time when global communication is at a premium?

Languages are now available to a much wider public, in particular to all students in key stages 3 and 4 of the national curriculum in England, for instance. The languages-for-all principle was hard-fought for, and has proved itself in many contexts, not least in special education.

The Government's own developing national strategy also proposes broad-based and lifelong access to languages and the intercultural skills they bring with them.

Curriculum planners must not be allowed to ignore this in their haste to solve pragmatic problems of teacher supply and disaffection; they must look to enhance and diversify their educational provision certainly, but their proposals must also motivate learners by integrating language experiences which are relevant to them, rather than simply guiding them elsewhere.

Steven Fawkes Past president Association for Language Learning 150 Railway TerraceRugby

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