The release of GCSE results last Thursday held reasons for optimism as well as hinting at a subtle shift in the future direction of language learning in schools.
Ann Carlisle, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, observes that things might be about to change: “It’s hugely encouraging that the number of entries for languages this year has risen for the first time in 5 years. Although only a small increase, that in itself is good news but it is all the more impressive given that total entries across all subjects were down due to a comparatively smaller year group. While we can take some reassurance from that, there is still a massive gap between the numbers now and the numbers that were taking a language just 5 years ago which still needs an urgent recovery plan.”
Mirroring the picture at A-level, Mandarin entries have been the surprise winner this year. Although small in actual numbers, compared with traditional languages French, Spanish and German, Mandarin entries increased by a substantial 7.5% when compared with 2% for German and 4.4% for Spanish. French, while still the most popular language by far in terms of actual entries experienced a drop of 2.9% which is all the more considerable because of the numbers involved.
Ann Carlisle continued: “The rise in Mandarin entries offers a hint of a suggestion that the focus for schools might be shifting and that young learners are prepared to look beyond Europe when choosing a language for the future.”