UK Teenagers Skip Foreign Language Studies

Department of Education data shows that a record number of students in UK schools are now choosing not to study a foreign language.

Fewer young people in the UK are studying foreign languages – with the number of students taking languages like French and German dropping to a new low.

The number of young people taking science and math classes are on the increase, shows data published by the Department for Education. The data also reveals almost 380,000 teenagers in England failed to take GCSEs in foreign languages in 2011.

Graeme Paton at the Telegraph reports that the number of schoolchildren shunning the subjects between the age of 14 and 16 has more than doubled since the late 90s.

“The drop has been particularly marked in French and German – traditionally the two most popular languages at school – with both being named among the fastest declining subjects at GCSE level last summer.

“According to figures, 154,221 pupils took a GCSE in French this year, a drop of 15 per cent in just 12 months. German entries dropped by more than 13 per cent to just 60,887 in 2011.”

There’s been a long downward trend in the number of students taking languages since 2004 after Labour decided to make languages optional for 14-year-olds in England. Since then, the classes – which are perceived to be among the most difficult academic disciplines – have become niche.

In a new measure, attempting to reverse this trend, schools in England will now be measured according to how many pupils achieve grades A*-C in five core subjects – math, English, two science qualifications, a foreign language and either history or geography.

Officials hope that the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) will encourage teachers to promote these traditional academic disciplines and inspire young people into pursue the studying of new languages.

Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, said:

“The continued decline of languages in schools needs to be addressed. The EBacc has begun to make a real difference, but it is clear that more will need to be done to ensure that languages are restored to the curriculum and become a necessary part of a rigorous education for pupils.”

Various proposals are being considered, but there’s no denying that the trend is a concerning one.


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