British Council wants multiple languages to be compulsory


The British Council has rejected proposals to make just one language compulsory at key stage 2 ― arguing that exposure to multiple languages is critical as pupils move up to secondary education.

It has also called for the government to consider making languages compulsory at key stage 4.

The government wants to make languages at key stage 2 compulsory from September 2014, but its consultation document proposes requiring just one language to be taught. 

The document explains: “We are seeking to make provision under the 2002 Education Act to ensure that all maintained schools must teach a foreign language at key stage 2, from year 3 to 6. This could be either a modern foreign language or an ancient language such as Latin or ancient Greek.”

The British Council’s response to the consultation, which has now closed, said: “If foreign language teaching at key stage 2 is of one foreign language, this benefit at key stage 3 will not be realised unless all key stage 2 pupils going into any one secondary school learn the same foreign language – which, rightly, is not proposed.”

It argues that the UK needs people who can speak many different languages, including those of high-growth economies in Asia and Latin America and says that children should be exposed to these at key stage 2.

Its response states: “The languages to which primary pupils are exposed should include widely spoken and economically important languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic or Russian, as well as languages traditionally taught in the UK like French, German or Spanish.”

The British Council also argues that to address the UK’s lack of foreign language skills, the government needs to consider making foreign languages compulsory again at key stage 4. In addition, it has called for clarification on which languages will have a new qualification under the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) proposals.

Its response adds: “If the government wishes to address the UK’s comparative lack of foreign language skills for the workplace, it should focus on key stage 4 and beyond, rather than key stage 2. In this context, we note the government’s plans to include a foreign language EBC as part of the English Baccalaureate at age 16-plus, but note that it has not decided how many or which languages should have an EBC qualification.”


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