All a matter of linguistic choice

20th July 2007 at 01:00
Whatever side you take in the increasing tensions of Welsh and English-medium education in school reorganisation, one thing should remain at the heart of the debate: choice (see page 4).

There is no doubt there is a rise in demand for Welsh-medium education, even among parents who cannot speak a word of the language. Many parents and especially the middle-classes, it seems wax lyrical over the choice they have been given in giving their child the opportunity to learn a second language at pre-school and primary level.

In the absence of compulsory modern foreign languages in primaries, who can blame them? But not everyone is caught up in the ideological bent towards the Welsh language, and these people have as much right to a choice in education as their next door neighbour. Isn't that what the Learning Country is all about?

In many anglicised areas of Wales there are many heads and teachers who are forced to fit a compulsory second language into an already tight timetable at key stage 4 and who hate the whole Welsh-language thing. That is why the fight of parents in the small Cardiff suburb of Gwaelod Y Garth is so interesting. Asking the help of estate agents to boost their cause may seem drastic, but these people are just as passionate about the availability of English-medium education in a bilingual school context as the parent who fights for the full bodied revival of the Welsh language. Bring on the revolution.

The hard fact that has to overrule the heart is that Wales is suffering from a surplus-places overload that needs to sorted out quickly. Local authorities, it seems, are crying out for help as they take the full flack of the taxpayer. Let's do more research. There also needs to be some form of national debate generated from the top. But the most sensible approach is to keep bilingual schools intact especially in small communities: either that or incur the wrath of a generation who won't give up without a very long, hard fight.

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