Real Madrid, French rap music and Germany’s Aldi and Lidl supermarkets are among the topics that university academics have recommended for study in new “academically rigorous” foreign language AS- and A-levels unveiled today.
The subject areas are listed in suggestions for individual project work from the A-level content advisory board (Alcab), made up of university academics and other subject experts.
The group suggested certain themes in modern languages, such as a case study entitled "The Aldi and Lidl Phenomenon" for German, popular music such as rap in French and footballing giants Real Madrid in Spanish.
Board member Chris Pountain, a professor of Spanish linguistics at Queen Mary, University of London, said the topic on Spain’s most successful football club would also allow students to consider “the importance of football as a social phenomenon in Spain”.
“It will appeal to sports enthusiasts and will encourage engagement with precise use of a particular technical vocabulary,” he added. “The topic is well supported by journalism, books and film."
The recommendations from universities come as the government has published new “academically rigorous” compulsory subject content for reformed AS- and A-levels in languages, maths and geography this morning.
Schools minister David Laws said this would ensure that the qualification provided students “with the knowledge and understanding to prepare them for higher education, and employment”.
The content is based on Alcab recommendations accepted by the ministers.
Mr Laws said that in the ancient languages qualifications there was a clearer requirement to study literary texts in the original language.
In modern foreign languages content had been strengthened, he added, with new requirements for students to translate unseen material. In geography, content had been updated with a better balance between physical and human geography.
The minister said that in maths all the content was now “prescribed in detail” and there was a requirement to study both mechanics and statistics and an increased emphasis on mathematical problem-solving.
Professor Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick and chair of Alcab, said the new A-levels would be both rewarding and good preparation for studying at university.
"Alcab has listened carefully to comments on the content of the A-levels, which we reviewed," Professor Thrift said. “We have made changes in a number of areas to take account of them. The revised qualifications have benefited from this scrutiny and we commend them to students and teachers. These are top quality qualifications and among the best in the world.”
But there is still controversy over the government’s decision to decouple AS-levels from A-levels, despite the University of Cambridge backing the existing system, in which AS results are a crucial part of the application process.
Labour has said it will reverse the decision if it wins power next year. But that could mean even more exam disruption for schools.
The new language A-levels will be ready for teaching from September 2016. But the maths and further maths qualifications have been deferred until September 2017 on the advice of Alcab and exams watchdog Ofqual.