British kids give up on German, French

9th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

9 December 2004 , LONDON - British schoolchildren have for generations battled the nuances lurking in the French subjunctive and the complexities of the German noun, but no more. A change in the syllabus rules means that learning a modern European language - usually French - is no longer compulsory, and the kids have deserted the French and German classes in droves. The attitude appears to be that the continentals should learn English, although there has been an uptick in Spanish. Many British youngsters t

9 December 2004

LONDON - British schoolchildren have for generations battled the nuances lurking in the French subjunctive and the complexities of the German noun, but no more.

A change in the syllabus rules means that learning a modern European language - usually French - is no longer compulsory, and the kids have deserted the French and German classes in droves.

The attitude appears to be that the continentals should learn English, although there has been an uptick in Spanish. Many British youngsters take their summer holidays in Spain.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke changed the rules from the beginning of the school year in September, and since then those taking French and German at the intermediate GCSE level - when they are around 15 years of age - have declined by almost three quarters.

While schools in poorer areas were more likely to drop languages, the trend was clear across the board, according to a recent official survey by the National Centre for Languages.

Boys are more likely to abandon languages than girls, suggesting they see little career benefit in mastering a second language.

Isabella Moore, director of the centre, said: "This will leave school leavers short of vital skills and affect the competitiveness of British business.

"With 70 percent of businesses now involved in some form of international activity, the idea that languages are just for 'academic' pupils is short-sighted and damaging to the economy," she added.

The Times said no one should be surprised at the trend, but described Clarke's decision, announced a year ago, as "short- sighted and ill-considered".

It also attacked modern language teachers for stressing only the utilitarian argument for learning a second language.

"Learning a language makes children skilled in their own language; it offers social and employment opportunities, broadens a mindset, teaches flexibility and bolsters self-confidence," the newspaper said.

"These are obviously not deemed high priorities for our education system," it noted sourly. 

DPA

Subject: German news 

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