Bring back foreign languages at GCSE

February 25, 2013
Category: Blog

Compulsory subjects at GCSE are provided to ensure that people get as good a grounding as possible in those subjects considered to provide key skills in future life and key knowledge in understanding the world around us. With increasing developments in globalisation the need of an English speaker to learn another language is becoming less and less necessary, however is it creating a nation closed to the exposure of experiencing other cultures as well as our own?

In 2004 the Labour party removed the compulsory taking of a foreign language at GCSE from the national curriculum. Whilst many will have sighed with relief, it leaves those who do want to learn it at a disadvantage – it is a difficult GCSE and as a result many will shy away from the challenge of it owing to the fact that league tables, CVs, university entrance etc. require good grades. If you had the choice, would you risk it? The result has been a steady decline of foreign languages being taken at GCSE over the last few years.

By not making this a compulsory GCSE, most students are only given 3 years’ opportunity to learn a foreign language, which, quite frankly, is not enough. Learning a foreign language is not just about learning to read, write and speak it, it is about learning about another culture, another way of life and different attitudes to life. By shutting off learning another language, today’s students can only become more insular looking.

Whilst it can be argued that globalisation enables many more people to communicate through the internet, mobile phones and videos with parts of the world that would never previously have been accessible, they do so in English. The studies of another country’s history, the nuances of its language and other cultural traditions get lost and the communication can only be deemed as somewhat superficial.

Surely, in a world where it is becoming increasingly necessary to understand and communicate on a global scale, the Minister of Education has a duty to ensure that the British do not become closed minded and arrogant of the English language. By learning another language, or if not that, through providing a form of cultural studies, students will have their minds opened to the consideration of other ways of living, other ways of educating, other forms of political systems whilst also learning and questioning the development of Britian, its position within the world and the relation of its own languages to this.  Furthermore, through the study of language students gain an understanding of grammar formations crucial to their own language which they can carry through all of their subjects and correspondence.

It would be through reintroducing a study of foreign language that we could create a more diverse and open society appreciative of other cultures and able to converse not just on a language level, but with a level of cultural awareness and appreciation.

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  • I don’t know if everyone should have to learn a foreign language but it has certainly helped me. Because of my French GCSE I did a French exchange which was a really great way to experience another country…..although I didn’t love it all the time. I was really embarrassed to find how much better the French were at English and how much keener they were to learn it. I agree as well that learning a foreign language makes you think more about your own language. It’s really helped with my English grammar because I didn’t really think much about grammar before.

  • I think everyone should at least try to do a language GCSE but I don’t understand why more schools don’t let us do Spanish. Loads more people in the world speak Spanish than French or German which is what is usually on offer.

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