Teachers reject plans to have students learn 1,700 words for language GCSEs | Modern languages ​​and linguistics

Proposals to teach students in England a set of 1,700 words frequently used as part of government reforms of the French, German and Spanish GCSEs have been rejected by principals and examination boards, who warn that ‘they will not bring new life to study. modern languages.

Nine organizations interested in language teaching in secondary schools have written to the government to demand an overhaul of plans for reform of modern foreign language teaching and assessment at GCSE level.

The number of applicants has dropped in recent years and the government has looked for ways to increase participation and enthusiasm for language learning. Experts say the latest proposals, although well intentioned, will not lead to an increase in adoption among students.

The organizations behind Thursday’s letter include the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Principals (NAHT) and the Heads of School Conference (HMC) as well as three examination boards. The Association for Language Learning, the Association of Independent Schools for Modern Languages ​​and the National Association of Language Advisors have also joined in calls for an overhaul.

They fear that the proposals as they stand will not promote the essential communication elements of language learning – listening, speaking, reading and writing – and could also undermine language teaching in primary education. and at level A.

“While the proposals were based on a segment of relevant published research, we note that there is a considerable body of research that validates our concerns,” their statement said. “We also note that the proposed learning and assessment model is risky, given the lack of international precedent and the lack of independent assessment.”

ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said: “There seem to be very few people, including language experts, who agree with the Department of Education’s (DfE) view. which this reform is the way to breathe new life into existing modern foreign languages ​​GCSE.

“You need an approach that encourages a love of learning these subjects. Requiring students to work their way through a list of words is a fundamentally flawed approach that will not get students excited and we urge the new DfE ministerial team to step back and rethink this reform.

A spokesperson for DfE said: “Ofsted’s research shows that students benefit first from learning the building blocks of a language, with a particular focus on vocabulary, phonetics and grammar. Our proposals aim to increase student motivation through this approach, and we will continue to work with professional bodies to achieve this.

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