Source: BBC News, Education correspondent Sean Coughlan, 13th April 2015
I was asked by BBC Radio to appear on their Good Morning show to discuss whether foreign language exams, especially at GCSE level, are too outdated and need to be more relevant to the younger generation.
My thoughts on this are that generally, across all the boards I tutor in (OCR, Edexcel, AQA, IGCSE, WJEC), the vocabulary is sometimes formulaic and can appear robotic (think along the lines of “I wake up in the morning at 7am and have cereal and milk for my breakfast” or “My house has 3 beds, 2 bathrooms and one garden”.)
However, whilst I do agree that the content can seem mundane at times and prescriptive, it is also necessary to learn these phrases to build up the foundations of the language and then progress to sentences that are more complex and relevant. After all, you still need the ‘holiday’ Spanish and know how to talk about your family and your routine.
What I have noticed over the years though is that the exam boards have begun to included topics such as jobs and careers, social media, technology, popular culture, social issues and so on. Further inclusion of themes such as bullying, music, festivals, fashion and relevant teenage issues could further engage students in exam level classes and in turn encourage them to study the language for AS/A Levels and later at university.
For some years now, there has been a knowledge gap with language teachers as fewer students take modern foreign language degrees. More interesting subject content could plug this gap and increase pupil engagement and participation.
As the government modifies the syllabus and generates initiatives to combat this problem, we will in time see a difference in students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards learning modern foreign languages in schools.
Founder and Head Tutor
London Spanish Academy