Dead languages beat live subjects in EBac madness

28th January 2011 at 00:00

As a linguist I welcome in principle the restoration of languages to a central core of subjects. Any measure which addresses the disastrous decline in uptake since languages were made optional could be seen as a step in the right direction.

However, successive governments have come up with the wrong answer to the right question. Why do pupils abandon languages in droves?

The previous administration's answer was to cave in and make it optional. This Tory-led response is to crowbar languages back into the curriculum via the EBac.

If the EBac returns us to a situation where GCSE languages becomes compulsory it will be a car crash waiting to happen. The curriculum in key stage 4 is widely held to be distorted by a banal and reductionist assessment regime, lacking in intrinsic interest for the age group.

The current examination is now 60 per cent a test of memory, as pupils cram their presentations for the controlled assessments. All of the excellent work done over the past six or seven years on developing alternative qualifications - asset languages, NVQ units, CBLC, applied French - seems to have been summarily dismissed, as they don't appear to fit in with Michael Gove's very personal interpretation of what the curriculum should look like.

John Connor, Independent consultant, modern foreign languages.

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