Language let-down

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
THE situation regarding the AS maths syllabus referred to by Tower Hamlets College (FE Focus, February 2) applies equally to AS modern languages, where there is little correlation between GCSE and A-level exams. At GCSE, written work in the language is done as "coursework", and the use of dictionaries is allowed in exams (including the oral component).

In the AS exam, dictionaries are not permitted, and there is no coursework. In addition, a high proportion of the AS mark is given for grammatical accuracy, which is not the case with GCSE. Hence, even a high GCSE grade is not necessarily an indicator of AS performance, or of basic knowledge of the language.

As if this were not enough, the requirements of the AS syllabus, especially regarding the grammatical content, are not a lot different from the present A-level; this means that from an already "shaky" base, we are requird to condense nearly two years' work into 10 months!

As in the case of maths, students enrol with enthusiasm, but are finding the work difficult, and many are becoming disillusioned, despite our efforts. Hence, owing to ham-fisted syllabus requirements imposed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (to which I made representations two years ago, to no avail) numbers going on to do modern languages at A2 will almost certainly be lower than the present A-level percentage; most other subjects have a markedly lighter AS workload, and students are fully aware of the fact. Thus one of the main objects of Curriculum 2000 will have failed.

I am an experienced head of languages in a sixth-form college; never have I felt so disillusioned or powerless, and view the future of post-16 modern languages with foreboding.

RA Herbert 346 Higham Lane, Nuneaton, Warks


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