Architects of ditched languages diploma battle to rebuild it

23rd July 2010 at 01:00

Language experts are in talks with exam board City and Guilds in the hope that at least part of the scrapped languages diploma can be revived.

The team behind the development of the diploma hopes that some kind of qualification - possibly an alternative to an A-level - could be created from the work that has already been done.

Development of the academic diplomas was brought to a halt by the Government last month when funding was ended, just as the languages version was about to be launched.

Teresa Tinsley, director of communications at Cilt, the national training organisation for languages, which provided the content for the diploma, said "the ideas can still be used".

"We're exploring with City and Guilds about that," she said. "The Government said it wouldn't force the development of diplomas but it was leaving the way open if there was a market for them - and we really don't want to see the development work wasted."

Terry Lamb, chair of the languages diploma development partnership, agreed that there was hope for some kind of future for it.

"The languages community was looking forward to this as something that would really provide the motivation for learners to want to continue learning languages."

The Coalition announced at the beginning of June that Government funding for the development of "academic" diplomas in science, humanities and languages should be stopped immediately.

Diplomas in 14 subject areas were due to be introduced in September 2011. Rob Roseveare, head of diplomas at AQA and City and Guilds, said this may yet happen for languages. "We are pleased to continue to work with the likes of Cilt to review the principal learning from the language diploma.

"The development of the diploma explored an innovative and alternative method of language learning, which received a lot of interest in the education sector and could potentially complement more traditional methods."

The advanced languages diploma, worth three-and-a-half A-levels, would have given students the chance to learn a language through activities, such as studying humanities or science in their language.

Students could also learn translating and interpreting skills and there would be some linguistics and a module on "autonomous learning" - learning a new language from scratch and keeping a reflective journal on how they went about it.

There has been a steep decline in language learning since it was made optional in 2004 - about 41 per cent of pupils now take a language GCSE.

There is concern that not only have the numbers studying languages dropped but that the subject is becoming elitist, as many independent schools insist students study a language until at least age 16.

Nick Mair, chair of the Independent Schools' Modern Languages Association and director of languages at Dulwich College in London, runs a scheme to bridge the gap between GCSE and AS-level for students who have taken a language GCSE early. The scheme includes some of the ideas that were in the diploma, such as linguistics.

"I think independent schools were keeping tabs on it," he said. "Schools are interested to find out about anything that motivates students in languages. It included things that would be done in A-level study by good teachers which were not necessarily rewarded in the existing A-levels, such as finding out how to become an autonomous language learner."

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