Bold plans to make language lessons a key part of every child’s classroom experience have been unveiled.
The Scottish Government has announced it aims to introduce the European Union 1+2 method of teaching over the course of two parliaments.
It will mean putting the resources in place to allow every child to learn two languages in addition to their own mother tongue and is driven by a determination to deliver equality for hundreds of thousands of young Scots.
The goal and timetable to bring Scotland into line with methods recommended by the European Union and already adopted across the continent and beyond are challenging.
But there has been blunt acceptance Scotland has an awful lot to learn when it comes to giving future generations the foreign language skills accepted as the norm in many parts of the world.
Recommendations con-tained in a Languages Working Group report being studied by Falkirk Council and every other local authority across the country map the way ahead and outline the huge changes which will have to be introduced to create the conditions needed to allow every pupil to benefit from what would be a major addition to the curriculum.
The implications of bringing together everything required to make it happen are now ‘homework’ for education services to work through.
Bosses agree they are “far reaching with significant resourcing issues - both human and financial” - but are preparing a raft of strategies to be ready to move the process along to the next stage.
The government claims the huge change in approach will:
Help make Scotland more economically competitive.
Recognise business community concerns about the lack of language skills and international culture and awareness among school and college leavers.
Shift the cultural perception that language learning is not important because ‘everyone speaks English’.
Halt the “significant” decline in the number of languages being taken to Scottish Qualification Award level.
The benefits of language learning are well documented and supported by research. Findings conclude it enhances:
Problem solving ability.
At its latest meeting, Falkirk Council’s education committee was told: “Our young people are competing for jobs in an increasingly globalised market. It is essential they have the opportunity to develop the skills that will allow them to compete on a level playing field.”
For Carol Paton, curriculum support officer with the council’s education services, language is a subject close to her heart.
The former principal teacher of languages and depute head at Bo’ness Academy is ready to play a key role with colleagues to take forward the Scottish Government’s exciting plan.
She is convinced the 1+2 approach to language learning is the way ahead and confident the chance to offer children as young as primary one the opportunity to start broadening their horizons through language will be met with enthusiasm – and such a dramatic approach to the issue is probably years overdue.
Carol said: “This is a ground-breaking strategy geared towards raising achievement.
‘‘The biggest challenge now is how best it can be delivered and how it will be paid for.
‘‘The report contains some 35 recommendations – not all of which apply schools – but, if accepted, are ambitious and would have far-reaching implications for schools.
“We will consult with head teachers to determine the implications in respect of training to deliver this approach and the organisational impact of introducing a language at P1 and nursery level. We will consult on how we could pilot this and gather more information about the potential impact.
“Some of our secondary schools have been working with foreign languages assistants through projects funded by the European Union to enhance their understanding of the culture and languages of those countries, but we have to ensure that young people all have the opportunity to develop the skills to allow them to take their place in the global workplace.”