To attain higher overall standards in British schools lies in the ability to master language learning


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.

It's all about methodology

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.

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It’s all about methodology

To get Britain’s next generation fluently conversing in a second language we must adapt our methodology of language learning. In 2014 the government outlined a new initiative to achieve just that. Now it is down to Britain’s teachers to deliver this ambition.


What’s the big plan?

A reshaping of the modern foreign languages GCSE has resulted in a new set of expectations for students. It is hoped that the new course design will equip students with the ‘ability and ambition to communicate with native speakers in speech and writing’. By developing confidence in the student’s communication it is expected that the student will be able to express ideas spontaneously and fluently in their second language.

It's all about methodology

There isn’t much time.

The government’s ambitions have left teachers with little time to facilitate this transition. Within two years students will be sitting the new language exams. In these new assessments the student will be expected to take part in a spontaneous ten minute conversation.

While this new style of assessment will hopefully result in a higher level of fluency amongst students, it also means that the student will not have due time to prepare a pre-rehearsed monologue. The differences between the necessary skills involved to enable a student to hold a fluent and reciprocal conversation as oppose to memorising a speech are stark. These are skills that will need to be developed in the classroom in good time before the assessments. Specifically, in order to achieve this, the learning attitudes and methodology must be developed.


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The benefits of bilingual education

Feed their brains


The benefits of a bilingual education can have benefits for a student’s learning capacity in other subject areas and is even thought to improve the brain’s resilience to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The American Psychiatric Association reports that the commendable benefits of language immersion can result in children who have an enhanced ability to process sounds and therefore pay attention in a learning situation. Other benefits include improved cognitive ability, social or emotional skills and educational advancement.

child writing

It’s not that simple

This all sounds great, but is it really that simple? How can teachers, whose abilities and resources are already stretched, realistically put in to practice such a learning atmosphere? One answer of course, is to start small. By working within in your means, subtle changes can be made to the classroom environment to introduce a second language. One such simple method is bilingual word posters in the classroom. Additionally, students could be encouraged to greet one another in both languages, which could result in a gradual cultural change within the classroom environment.


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