In 2013 the government announced ambitious plans to raise the bar of overall education standards in Britain – particularly for disadvantaged children. With the aim being to achieve a better start at secondary school for pupils, the government loosened the criteria for the assessment of pupil performance – commissioning schools with the ability to remove the levels system and implement their own systems of measuring pupils’ progress.
This should have been a gift to those schools seeking to improve their language programme, who would now no longer need to focus attention on attainment of grade percentages, but could instead focus on delivering holistic language tuition. However, as we previously discussed, British schools are facing a dwindling language skill set amongst its newly qualified teachers. This is hindering British schools’ ability to profit from the new ambitious learning precedent put forward by the government.
And while this is frustrating for the teachers, it is also detrimental to the overall education of the pupils. The pupils essentially miss out on the opportunity to learn a new skill on the same footing as their classroom counterparts, because some pupils, who may experience difficulties in English, have the opportunity to learn a new skill from an equal perspective of other pupils in the class. This presents an essential opportunity for pupils to develop their learning confidence – not only in languages – but in all subject areas. That is to say, an improvement of pupils’ overall learning confidence will impact their performance in other subject areas and thus help them to develop an overall increased educational experience.
This sentiment is echoed in a report by the Guardian and British Academy who published in their article a claim that stated that learning at least one additional language could be helpful in combatting depression. By providing an additional window on the world, people are able to connect with more ideas and people. And being able to connect to different people, histories and cultures is an essential tool for students to learn about wide range of topics in various subject areas. The lesson therefore is that in order to improve the overall standards of education set forth by the government; students must have the ability to open their mind through the world of languages. And while making languages a compulsory subject in primary schools is a big step in the right direction, schools must now ensure that language provision is being adequately provided for.