Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The cuts start now...

My two elder daughters (who are at primary school) are currently getting free language tuition at a nearby secondary school. That school has specialist status for languages, and provides those additional classes for free as an after-school activity for the younger ones. Apart from teaching the kids Spanish/French/German/... I guess they also benefit themselves through advertising their school. No idea how much the kids actually learn, but it is a fun class, they enjoy it, and if they can speak a few French phrases in addition then that's great. It definitely gets them interested in foreign languages, and that is a bonus given the current attitude to those in England.

However, we yesterday got a letter from the school. The new coalition government has abolished the 'specialist status' scheme, and presumably that means that any funding that was connected to this status is going to disappear. From April onwards, the letter states, the school cannot afford to provide those additional language classes any longer.

This, of course, is not the school's fault. But it is really sad that foreign language classes for primary school kids are disappearing, and it shows that this government got its priorities wrong. I'm not too worried about my own kids, as they get a lot of exposure to other languages, but children from mono-lingual families are now losing out. Not all parents can afford to pay for language classes provided by, eg, Club Français, after school.

In my view, learning foreign languages is vital in the modern global world. Even though many people learn English as a second language it severely limits you if you can only speak one language. And since modern languages are no longer compulsory at A-level, recruitment for modern language departments at English universities has gone down.

Given that the British economy has little manufacturing left, languages are vital if we want to compete on the global market. Cutting down spending in education is the wrong way to move forward. But this cabinet of millionaires does seem to have other priorities.

1 comment:

  1. Apt Steve Bell cartoon today: