Speaking acquaintances

19th April 1996 at 01:00
Slowly but surely, the Scottish perspective on modern languages is being understood, writes Eleanor Caldwell. What does KS3 stand for anyway? How should I know if Year 8 is S1 or S2?" There's a wee bit of aggression among colleagues north of the border when faced with "the English terminology".

It would be reasonable to suggest that most Scottish teachers have never taught or have no intention of teaching in England or Wales. As a consequence, they have at best a fleeting knowledge and only a reluctant interest in the details of the national curriculum. After all, we have our own examination system and national guidelines for subject teaching.

In reality however, it's not as simple as it seems. Take the curriculum area of modern languages. Within the last six years there can scarcely have been a subject in which so much excellent resource material has been published.

There is an immense variety of components in every course, providing for every conceivable differentiated lesson. Close inspection of any of the courses in French or German: Etoiles (BBCLongman), Route Nationale (Thomas Nelson), Projekt Deutsch (Oxford University Press), and OK! (Mary Glasgow) reveals excellent cross-referencing, (usually provided in clear, tabulated formats) for the preparation of syllabuses.

These are, without exception, entirely based on the framework of the national curriculum: attainment targets, areas of experience and attainment levels.

It's at this point that the hackles rise in about 450 schools in Scotland. Reactions to a cheerful cartoon introducing the innovative Etoiles course - "Etoiles is an ambitious, interactive national curriculum course" are not good.

While teachers in England and Wales will be understandably delighted to have a simplified version of "les objets nationaux" for the classroom wall, once again Scottish departments feel rather bereft.

Projekt Deutsch, another course which puts a refreshing slant on classroom teaching, makes no mention of anything beyond the national curriculum and Route Nationale makes fleeting mention only of Standard grade.

Only OK!, the lively course designed for pupils with special needs devotes an entire page to the Scottish national guidelines. Published by the Scottish Office in February 1993, the Guidelines on Modern European Languages 5-14, using terminology which is both similar and irritatingly different to the national curriculum, offer not a prescriptive system, but a set of guidelines which is "expected to be used as a framework for the teaching of S1 and S2".

Implementation of these has been left to the discretion of local education authorities and the net result seems to be a piecemeal and scrappy take-up of what are excellently developed guidelines.

We have thus come full circle to a better understanding of the absence of a Scottish perspective in modern language resources. Introduction of languages to the primary school and consequent implementation of the full 5-14 programme towards the end of the century will bring Scotland towards a more equable position and Scottish teachers may enjoy pinning up a copy of "les objectifs nationaux ecossais".

* Eleanor Caldwell teachesmodern languages at WallaceHigh School, Stirling

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