A new foreign language survey has revealed that only 32 percent of young people in the United Kingdom (UK) are able to read or write in more than one language, compared with 79 percent of their peers in France and more than 90 percent in Germany.
According to the research published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), it is necessary that foreign language is made compulsory for UK students above the age of 16.
The survey cites the recent abysmal results recorded by the UK’s students in encouraging young people to study other foreign languages other than English.
The research urged the UK government to overturn its 2004 decision to drop compulsory study of languages at key stage four, which has led to a steep decline in the numbers in England going on to study languages at colleges and universities.
It also recommends that the UK government should start subsidizing the teaching of foreign languages at the college level, in light of declining enrolments and growing vulnerability for lesser taught languages, for strategic and cultural reasons.
Megan Bowler, the research author, expressed her disapproval against the 2004 decision, stating it was a big mistake to scrap compulsory foreign languages at secondary schools.
She explained that rather than continuing to present languages as not suitable for everyone, there is the urgent need to include it into a broader range of pupils learning through a variety of qualifications geared to different needs.
Notably, numbers of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who sit for GCSE foreign language exam has declined, when compared with when the study was compulsory.
The survey also notes that GCSE entries in German have fallen by 67 percent since 2002, while French entries have dropped by 62 percent.
Nick Hillman, Hepi’s director, also noted that the Uk government making foreign languages optional at GCSE was one of the worst education policy blunders in recent memory.
Foreign languages enhance diverse cultural identities
An earlier report supported Bowler claims noting that teaching foreign languages would enhance diverse cultural identities across Europe.
The authors noted that the development of language skills was vital for economic prosperity, social development and the acceptance of diverse cultural identities.
According to the author, the research findings of the study are aimed at encouraging UK policymakers, business and education providers to support the revision and improvement of current curriculum provision in additional language learning.
It also stated that language learning was conducive to economic growth and that can enhance the lives and future employability of children and young people.
Across the European Union (EU) more than 80 percent of primary pupils learn an additional language.
British Academy supports report recommendation
The British Academy has said it supports the research recommendations, which corresponds with many of its own concerns.
The Academy noted that languages are vital for effective trade, diplomacy, social mobility, educational attainment, and a lot more, all of which are essential for the UK’s future success.
Although, the decline can be linked to the shortage of teachers, with the report recommending that language teachers be added to the Home Office’s shortage occupation list, to help recruit teaching staff from overseas.