Business leaders speak out for better language lessons
According to Gareth Rose, Education Reporter, business leaders are pressing for more youngsters to learn languages in schools to help them compete in the global marketplace.
As fewer pupils now learn a foreign language than ten years ago, Edinburgh's Chamber of Commerce is set to push for a target of all pupils leaving school with at least one foreign language in curriculum meetings it holds with the local authority and headteachers.
The Chamber of Commerce wants to see a change in the kinds of languages being taught, as it believes Mandarin, Hindi and Eastern European languages are now more useful in the workplace.
Currently, French remains the most common language- being taught in 98 primary and 23 secondary schools - followed by German, Spanish and Italian.
The Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of an earlier start with languages "Secondary school is too late, the best time is when children are six and seven because kids that age are like sponges soaking up information."
Mr Bell wants to see schools consider teaching languages spoken in new EU member states where there are business opportunities due to cheaper labour and overheads, and where many people do not speak English. "I would like to see every child leave school with at least one foreign language."
Although this is commendable, key issues such as staffing and training must be considered. The promotion of a specific language as more “useful” also does not consider the fact that the acquisition of generic language-learning skills should be the priority. Language-learning is a long-term investment and demand for specific languages does evolve with time-what is needed now might not be by the time a child completes their education.
Roger Horam, head of projects and partnerships at the chamber, is one of the key figures in the education policy group, which liaises with the city council over which subjects should be taught in schools to give children the best chance of finding work.
Mr Horam said: "We've been concentrating on Curriculum for Excellence initiatives, getting more vocational training in schools. Languages have suffered as a result and we have not lobbied nearly as much as we should have done. But it is certainly something we will be taking up with the council at future meetings."
What puzzles me is that languages are always opposed to vocational studies, when they are such a strong asset in so many careers. Are we just aiming to train professional linguists?