No mistake in statistics

11th December 1998 at 00:00
YOU CLAIM (TESS, November 27) that the Scottish Office "has admitted it might have got it wrong in the way figures for the uptake of modern languages were presented by the Government". That is incorrect. It has been claimed that the statistics about the number of young people taking modern languages at Higher grade show "some fluctuation", and represent "a more stable picture rather than one of dramatic decline". The statistical information referred to in your report has been very selectively quoted, and does not support these claims.

There has been a substantial drop between 1976 and 1998 in the number of modern languages presentations at Higher grade in S5 as a percentage of the following base populations: S4 cohort (12.5 per cent to 8.1 per cent); those choosing to stay on to S5 (34 per cent to 12 per cent); those taking at least one Higher (39 per cent to 16 per cent); those taking at least three Highers (52 per cent to 24 per cent).

Your report quotes a suggestion that "Scottish Office statistics offer a consistently negative view of education". Colleagues across the Government Statistical Service take very seriously their obligation to provide objective and balanced statistical information.

Colin MacLean, Chief Statistician, Scottish Office, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh

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