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Osler changes tack on modern languages

The former head of the inspectorate has admitted to a change of heart over the place of modern languages in the curriculum.

Hard on the heels of the First Minister's call for modern languages to be dropped for pupils who might benefit from a more vocational education, Douglas Osler insists that he has not changed his mind about the importance of languages but no longer believes they should be compulsory. They are in the category of "desirable but not essential", he suggests.

In his latest TES Scotland column, Mr Osler said other ways should be explored to reinforce the teaching of foreign languages which are often an "unwelcome subject" for many pupils.

His solution is to set a standard for fluency in speaking a language which pupils could reach out of school, freeing school time for other purposes.

Once pupils attained that level, which might be done through distance learning, the school should accept it.

Mr Osler also called for experiments to allow some primary schools them to specialise in teaching parts of the curriculum through a foreign language.

But he says that "a huge boost" to learning another language could come from adopting the German approach which requires a certain linguistic standard to be reached before a student is allowed to graduate from tertiary education.

The result is that youngsters choose to take a language at school, thus removing "the odour of compulsion".

Platform 21

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