Letters extra: No words in the dictionary for this

18th May 2001 at 01:00

Ten years ago the prospects for a better image for modern languages in secondary schools seemed very bright.nbsp; Major changes at GCSE and A-level meant that more realistic tasks could be set through coursework and for the first time, that everyday tool of the linguist, the bi-lingual dictionary, became as essential for the linguist as was the calculator for the mathematician.

Recent developments have been almost as shocking as the above were welcome.nbsp; This year's Year 12 students enter the modern language exam room unable to take their dictionary along with them.nbsp; These students have been encouraged throughout their school career to make use of this aid and have been properly trained in the proper use of the dictionary - pitfalls and all.nbsp; It is perverse and quite illogical that this curricular change, ordered by the QCA, should moreover work from the top down.nbsp; This year's Year 11 students are able to use their dictionaries in the forthcoming exams.

If this were not enough, the same Year 12 students are the first cohort to take the new AS-level examinations.nbsp; For these students the major examination board that our school uses has not been able to produce proper specimen papers.nbsp; They admit that this summer's papers will be different - but cannot show us in what respect.nbsp;

I am at a loss for words.nbsp;What on earth is going on in modern languages?

Paul Tattam
Head of modern languages, Sha Tin College, Hong Kong

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