Working with languages

28th November 2003 at 00:00
Like many other teachers of modern languages, it was with dismay that I read of Jack McConnell's about-turn with respect to modern languages in the curriculum (TESS, November 7).

This retrograde and short-sighted stance is about to undermine everything modern linguists have been striving to achieve over the past few years. Not only have we embraced the philosophy of "languages for all", we actually believe it and have worked painstakingly not only to equip our young people with the skills necessary for competing in the European workmarket, but to reinforce an awareness and acceptance of other cultures and a sense of European citizenship - only to be told now that it is pointless.

Have these ceased to be the tenets of the Scottish Executive's philosophy?

It was also with dismay that I read the reference to the "poorly motivated pupils" at Our Lady's High, Cumbernauld (a comment which could indeed serve to demotivate not only pupils but staff also).

The reality is that in the past few years we have seen not only improved results in post-16 courses but also a steady increase in uptake.

Unfortunately, many pupils have to be turned away due to lack of provision in the timetable.

Across the country, modern languages teachers may well ask what the Scottish Executive has really done to promote modern languages, or if ministers even truly understand why a knowledge of a language is necessary.

It would be a positive step forward if Mr McConnell were to come to parents' information evenings and speak to the lorry drivers, the plumbers and the construction workers who readily come forward to express their embarrassment and frustration at their inability to communicate even at the most basic levels while working in Europe. This is the real world.

Helen Lobit

Principal teacher modern languages

Our Lady's High School

Cumbernauld

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