Welsh can't flourish with this exam

12th October 2007 at 01:00

Now the GCSE second-language Welsh short course has been shown for what it is a waste of time it should be scrapped.

But the Assembly government should not stop there following Estyn's criticisms and recommendation to overhaul the teaching of statutory second-language Welsh at key stage 4. Making teenagers sit an exam in a subject they find hard and have little aptitude for smacks of nonsense.

There is nothing wrong in making a subject compulsory as long as it serves a purpose. In this case the GCSE was meant to encourage Welsh fluency outside the school gates but clearly this is not happening.

Forcing young people to take an exam when they obviously don't want to is pointless. Welsh teacher Julia Burns pulls no punches when she says: "I don't have a beef with the short course I think it's OK but only if it's given at least three hours a week and not if it's forced on pupils who find it too hard."

Ms Burns is passionate about the Welsh language but even she says the compulsory element is not working well, especially for less-able children. She wants to see a practical aspect to statutory Welsh and see more children taught at four years old.

Let's hope the new specifications from Welsh exam board the WJEC will go some way to encouraging young people rather than "turning them off".

We also need more Welsh teachers, another problem that emerges from Estyn's report on the subject's success at KS4. Dr Phil Dixon, from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, is absolutely right when he calls for the exam element of learning languages to be looked at.

If the government is serious about making Wales a truly bilingual country then it has to look further than the current compulsory GCSE Welsh courses. Making Welsh a hit with young people was never going to be easy. Making it compulsory may have been counter-productive.

The government needs to scrap the short course, rethink making students sit a Welsh GCSE and ensure the right resources and staff are available to make learning the language of heaven an enjoyable experience from pre-school nursery onwards.

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