Sunday, 6 January 2008

Happy New Year! 2008 is the International Year of Languages

Insisting that everyone in the world should speak a language, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2008 the International Year of Languages. Matsuura Koichiro, director-general of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, will coordinate international efforts to stress the importance of languages and promote their study.

To D-G Matsuura, languages are essential both for individual identity and for peaceful coexistence. Education is also supported by languages through the development of literacy in first and additional languages. UNESCO also stresses the connection between cultural diversity and linguistic diversity, and with only about a quarter of all languages used in schools or in cyberspace, U.N. experts warn that up to half of the 7000 languages in the world are in danger of disappearing over the next few generations.

In conjunction with the International Year of Languages, UNESCO is encouraging government policies that support the use of first languages together with the learning of regional, national and international languages, to ensure that everyone can participate in a globalizing world.

UNESCO also encourages everyone to learn additional languages as a way to open up to other cultures and it sponsors the annual World Language Day that will take place on 21st February 2008, to celebrate everyone’s right to use their native tongue in all aspects of their daily lives and to honor people who have died to preserve their linguistic rights.

Teachers force changes to GCSEs

By Warwick Mansell, Helen Ward and Nick Hilborne
TES, Published: 21 December 2007

New exams in 28 subjects from 2009 show drastic alterations to QCA’s original revisions.Teachers have forced the Government’s exams watchdog into drastic changes to revision of GCSEs in many subjects from 2009. Already-trailed alterations to the 20-year-old exams, such as the introduction of tighter controls on coursework and the possibility of more modular courses, remain in place.

But the final criteria for the new GCSEs in 28 subjects, published today, show many detailed changes from what was proposed when they appeared in draft form in June. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s decisions follow a consultation with 1,865 teachers.

A TES analysis of the new criteria has revealed that not being able to speak French, German or other languages will no longer be a barrier to gaining a GCSE in the subject. Pupils will be able to choose to study a short course in either speaking and listening or reading and writing. The change is in line with Lord Dearing’s review into language learning published earlier this year. This pointed out that the current GCSE short course, which covers all four skills but has less content than the full GCSE, was not popular.

Other major changes have also been prompted by the Dearing recommendations. Oral tests could change to become less stressful and schools and students will be allowed to choose at least some of the content to be studied.

Students will now gain 40 per cent of their grade from external exams and 60 per cent from controlled assessment, the same weighting as in other practical subjects such as music or engineering.

In addition, the criteria state that assessment of speaking and writing must be by controlled assessment. But tiered papers will remain, despite teachers in the consultation being divided over this issue.

For a summary of specific changes for languages, go to:

All references to new KS3 PoS and the outcome of GCSE review be found at