Raisons to be cheerful

25th June 2004 at 01:00
I agree with Peter Boaks, acting director of Cilt, the national centre for languages, that the dialogue between teachers and exam boards needs to be improved ("Languages dying of ennui", TES, June 11).

You are right also to draw attention to the serious situation at key stage 4. The Association of Language Learning has, with other bodies, been expressing this concern for some time, as reported in your pages.

However, your editorial ("Language teaching needs a lift") says only a "very small number of jobs for young Britons require languages". This assertion is contradicted by research, which indicates young people with language skills are highly employable in a wide range of careeers (see Cilt's "Language Works" materials).

It is also assumed in the editorial that job opportunities are the motivation for young people to learn languages - but they are not the only motivation.

You say other young Europeans want to learn English to get access to contemporary culture and the rest of the world. In our country the emphasis in the secondary system is on passing exams rather than fostering interest in subjects. The rethink you propose will only be effective in the long term if the use of league tables is reviewed.

In focusing upon secondaries, you omit the positive developments including:

* The national development of primary language teaching in England;

* The introduction of the "Languages Ladder", the National Recognition Scheme for language learners from 7 to 77;

* The steady increase in students following university language learning programmes in HE to well over 54,000;

* The current buoyancy of adult language learning.

We will follow with interest the progress of Edexcel's pilot Applied French GCSE. It may well offer a pointer to the type of courses that could be developed in the future, if the changes at 14-19 envisaged in the Tomlinson Review are implemented.

Bill Musk President Association for Language Learning 150 Railway TerraceRugby

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