A genuine Baccalaureate could help the English master foreign languages


Recent education headlines have focused on the improved take up of modern foreign languages in England at GCSE level.

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Numbers sitting examinations in these subjects have increased, which is great news for those of us who believe in the importance of multilingualism in the modern world. I have a personal stake as my daughter is bilingual English-Russian and learning French and German at her school.

The Department of Education and other commentators give the credit to the E-Bacc, a school performance measure introduced a few years ago which stresses the importance of a broader spread of subjects than simply the core of English and Maths. This will be improved with revised accountability measures allocating points across 8 key subjects, though some have pointed out that the continued emphasis on English and Maths results could still limit broader educational outcomes.

We will see.

A separate concern is that foreign languages are now declining at A-level and in universities.

This is where a real English Baccalaureate may help things by encouraging a broader choice of subjects post16, particularly if proposed reforms to A-level, with the disappearance of intermediate AS exams, look like narrowing options down for that academic route.

An English Baccalaureate could also link languages with vocational learning and start to bring England more in line with other European countries, where there is an expectation that young people master not just a ‘hands on’ profession, but a foreign language as well (ironically, this is often English).

This is a message that needs to be conveyed strongly to those who hold policy responsibilities.

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