Distorted criticism

13th November 1998 at 00:00
ACCORDING TO some sections of the media the introduction of modern languages into Scottish primary schools has "failed", "flopped". Having a close interest in primary languages we carefully read the official report, Standards and Quality. It rightly identifies the weaknesses and issues for those involved.

However, we were dismayed that the media focused almost exclusively on the weaknesses and failed to recognise the many positive aspects. The report states that the quality of courses was judged to be "good or better overall in 70 per cent of the schools". Attainment in coursework was judged to be "very good or good in almost 85 per cent of the schools".

Although the quality of teaching was "very good in 15 per cent of schools and good overall, with weaknesses, in 70 per cent", this was reported by one newspaper as 85 per cent showed weaknesses. It is obvious that the term "with weaknesses" was being used as a modifier of the category "good".

The HMI report also states that "teachers frequently had good command of the foreign language with only a very few cases where teachers' competence in the foreign language was unsatisfactory". It is the latter statement which some of the media saw as a "good story" and therefore chose to highlight.

One newspaper editorial even stated that primary teachers had only 27 hours of training when in fact the national training programme amounts to 27 days. The inaccurate reporting is unfair to the many teachers, tutors and others involved. It says more about standards and quality in Scottish journalism than it does about standards and quality in primary language teaching.

Daniel Tierney John De Cecco Department of language education University of Strathclyde

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