Languages are becoming 'twilight subjects' at state schools
Essentially, the government abandoned the obligatory foreign language from age 14 in 2004, with the promise that in exchange, earlier start would be introduced. However, the earlier start for 7- to 11-year-olds will only be introduced in 2011. Between those that turned 14 in 2004 and those who will be under 11 in 2011, there are at least ten year groups that may only get three years of foreign language education.
Considering that even at A level (year 13, after up to 7 years of language learning) the standards are appalling, and at GCSE (year 11) the kids are far from being able to speak the language they have allegedly learned for 5 years, 3 years is practically nothing (I have one child in the second year of learning French right now, and I know they learn nothing).
Reducing the minimal time from 5 years to 3 has turned a bad situation into a disaster zone. As the Guardian article points out, it also helps private schools, which are aiming at much better standards, apparently.
Of course it is right to start earlier, but what on earth were they thinking, moving the tail end first and the start date only seven years later?
The "New Labour" government started with the slogan "Education, education, education!"
Today it feels more like "Education, err ... education ? ... what education ???"
PS in a small accompanying piece, the Guardian credits Shakira with the increased popularity of Spanish (at the expense of German) in schools. I'd love to believe that, though it seems implausible, as her records aren't that successful around here (not a patch on what's going on in Germany), and anything she's recorded in Spanish doesn't even get to the shops. But ok, there probably are a few kids who have taken inspiration from her, good on them.
PPS I corrected the year of the change of policy, it was 2004, not 2000 as originally stated.
PPPS (8.10.2012) A visitor to this blog had posted a comment including a link to the site languagesoftware.net. I just received an incredibly rude email from the company requesting me to remove this link ...
"because your domain may fit within one or more of the following categories: infected with malware; low quality site; paid link provider; manipulative link activity; link exchange networks; or simply not a good fit for LanguageSoftware.net."
I have removed the comment, as it was anonymous and may very well have been a dodgy attempt to spread links to that website, but am wondering whether they actually have a right to stop me from linking to them. Any views? Of course I wouldn't link to their site now.