New alert on languages

5th March 1999 at 00:00
NONE OF the three major developments in modern languages set up by the Scottish Office is an unqualified success, Glasgow warns in its response to the controversial report by HMI on language teaching.

Modern languages in the primary school is the most successful initiative, although a number of fundamental flaws remain, Glasgow says.

Compulsory languages in S3 and S4 and attempts to introduce languages other than French face continuing difficulties.

HMI's findings mirror those of a previous study in Glasgow, Ian Boffey, the city's languages adviser, told councillors on Tuesday. A Government inquiry into languages is now under way, headed by John Mulgrew, director of education in East Ayrshire.

Glasgow says that training one teacher for every two primary 6 and primary 7 classes has not ensured continuity and staff movement has caused "some serious disruption".

The problem will only be overcome once foreign languages are included in initial teacher training, Mr Boffey advises.

Primary courses which are under one hour for P6 and 90 minutes for P7 are not considered worth while by teachers.

In secondaries, the 50 per cent weighting for speaking in Standard grade modern languages has "distorted classroom practice". The city maintains that learning should be more focused on skill development and less on learning vocabulary.

Numbers taking German and Italian are dropping, underlining that "diversification is struggling". Developments in primary languages and the introduction of Higher Still are squeezing languages other than French.

"The effect of HMI's comments on taster courses and double language provision in S1-S2 is likely to reduce the amount of language work in languages other than French. This is a serious matter," councillors were told.

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