A-level results: Language entries down as Chinese overtakes German

A-level entries down in French, Spanish and German

Will Hazell

An academy trust is teach all its pupils Mandarin

The number of UK students sitting A-level Chinese has outstripped German for the first time.

But the new interest in Mandarin has not been enough to halt an overall decline in modern foreign language entries.  

This year entries in French, Spanish and German fell collectively by 7.9 per cent.

In French, entries dropped from 9,468 in 2017 to 8,712 this year (an 8 per cent fall) and Spanish from 8,601 to 8,255 (a 5 per cent fall).

However, it was German that saw the biggest proportional drop, with entries plummeting from 3,663 in 2017 to 3,058 this year – a 16.5 per cent decline.

While the fall in the big three language subjects resulted in a net drop in MFL entries, students sitting A levels in other languages rose from 9,386 in 2017 to 9,673 this year.

Russian was one of the subjects that saw its entries rise, but the subject that attracted most students of the non-traditional languages was Chinese.

Entries for Chinese rose from 3,070 last year to 3,334 in 2018 – an 8.6 per cent rise, with the subject now outstripping German in its popularity.

Earlier this summer, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said it was “very worrying” that language learning had “dropped off a cliff”.

She also suggested that pupils might be better off studying European languages rather than Chinese. “It’s probably best to start with a European language and move on to the more challenging languages,” she said.

The government has made increasing uptake of Chinese in schools a key policy priority, launching a four-year Mandarin Excellence Programme in 2016, and making putting teachers of the subject on the "shortage occupation" list, which gives greater priority for visas.

The proportion of entries being graded A*/A fell in French, Spanish and German this year.


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