THE Nuffield Languages Inquiry Report was published last month. Chaired by Sir Trevor McDonald and Sir John Boyd, the committee considered:
* What capability in languages will the UK need in the next 20 years to fulfil its economic, strategic, social and cultural aims and responsibilities, and the aspirations of its citizens?
* To what extent do present policies and arrangements meet these needs?
* What strategic planning and initiatives will be required in the light of the present position?
The inquiry consulted widely with employers and the public, received evidence from specialists, and carried out surveys. It concluded: "At the moment, by any reliable measure we are doing badly... Educational provision is fragmented, achievement poorly measured, continuity not very evident."
Calling for a "coherent national languages strategy", the inquiry urges that "we can and must do better".
Its main findings are:
* English is not enough - although a global language, exclusive reliance on English leaves the UK dependent on the linguistic competence and goodwill of others.
* Leadership to develop skills would be welcome among young professionals.
* Young people from the UK, unlikely to have usable language skills, are disadvantaged in the increasingly international global market.
* The UK needs languages other than French, yet the range taught at secondary level is narrowing.
* There is no "rational path of learning from primary school to university and beyond".
* There is no early start to language learning, despite parental demand.
* Secondary school pupils lack motivation.
* Nine out of 10 pupils stop learning languages at 16.
* University language departments are closing, and higher education provision is lacks co-ordination nationally, favouring traditional areas of research.
* Lifelong languages learning is in decline and has been for many years, despite demand from adults.
* The UK desperately needs more language teachers.
The inquiry proposes:
* Designating languages a key skll alongside literacy, numeracy and ICT.
* Driving forward a national strategy to develop capabilities in the UK.
* Appointing a languages supremo attached to the Cabinet Office and answerable to the prime minister.
* Raising the profile of languages through a sustained public campaign.
* Giving young children a flying start by introducing language awareness and the chance to learn a new language into the National Literacy Strategy from key stage 2.
* Improving language learning in secondary schools by providing a greater range of languages, a more flexible menu to cater for different needs, and more use of ICT. All pupils should leave secondary education with foundation language skills, grammatical understanding, and skills for further learning.
* Making languages a specific component of the 16-19 curriculum, a requirement for university entrance and for vocational qualifications. They should be incorporated in key skills.
* Reforming the organisation and funding of languages in higher education.
* Developing the potential for language learning in adult life, investing in lifelong learning and driving up standards.
* Training more teachers and get them into schools, in the short term by making language teaching more attractive; in the longer term by making language study post-16 (as above) a requirement for initial teacher training.
* Establishing a national standards framework for describing and accrediting language competence, embracing the Council of Europe framework and existing UK qualifications.
* Ensuring that the potential of new technologies is fully exploited by co-ordinating initiatives linking technology and languages.
The Nuffield Languages Inquiry Report costs pound;9.50 inc UK postage, from The English Company (UK) Ltd, 2 Western Road, Wolverton, Milton Keynes MK12 5AF. Telcredit card: 01908 220183. E-mail: email@example.com The Nuffield Languages Inquiry, PO Box 2671, London W1A 3SH. Tel: 020 7911 5167. Email firstname.lastname@example.org