Vote for Modern Languages!

BAS editor Stephen Hart

Modern Languages need a more attractive exam syllabus than the one that is offered by the current A-level curriculum.

That is the key finding of the project co-ordinated between the Bulletin of Advanced Spanish, University College London, the University of Glasgow, the Cervantes Institute, University College School, Canford School, Westminster School, and City of London School, “Developing a Partnership Between Universities and Schools in Order to Enhance the Student Experience of the Spanish A-level” (Project name: C72 KEI2021-01-32 SHart; Project No. 564452, Award No. 156780), funded by HEIF at University College London (15/03/2021-14/02/2022).

Our research involved a number of workshops and webinars and an Opinio (sic) web survey.  Now, in the project’s final stage, we will be making recommendations about how to address the challenges that we are facing in Modern Languages.[1]

On 14 January the UK Government published its proposal to reform Modern Languages.[2]  Some of its suggestions – particularly the focus on vocabulary-building ahead of a number of other linguistic skills – are seen in some quarters as controversial or even counter-productive. The debate about the best way to improve the GCSE Modern Language curriculum has important implications for Modern Languages A-level too.[3]

In this issue of the Bulletin of Advanced Spanish, we include three short descriptions of options that we would like to propose for inclusion in a future and better version of the Spanish A-level curriculum. These are as follows:

We would like to include them in the curriculum of the Spanish A-level in order to attract students who want careers as medics, scientists, business leaders or economists.  Proficiency in a foreign language can be an enormous plus for those who want to excel in such careers, eg as a scientist working with a team in a Spanish laboratory, or as a medic working with hospital specialists in Mexico City.

The proposed new options in Business/Economics, Science/Technology and Film-making are not meant to replace film and literature in the curriculum, which are likely to remain a much-studied component of the Spanish A-level.

Put simply, our aim in this project is to open up the Spanish A-level language options for those students who want to carry on studying a language but would prefer a curriculum that reflects their future career interests more closely. Our aim is not to prescribe the use of these options for all schools. Syllabus choices will depend on the interest of the school and the preferences of Spanish A-level teachers. However, we have evidence that offering options of this kind can help to increase the Modern Language cohort (see the ‘Business and Economics’ link above).

If you like the sound of these options, please let us know. Whether you are a Year 11 GCSE student considering an A-level in Modern Languages or an A-level teacher or university lecturer specialising in Modern Languages, please fill in the survey, which follows this article. There are just 5 questions, and boxes for your comments: it can be done in a couple of minutes.

To fill in the survey, click here:

https://opinio.ucl.ac.uk/s?s=76490


University College London will be holding an Open Day designed for Modern Languages A-level students in French, Spanish, German, and Italian, as well as those students interested in Comparative Literature, on the afternoon of 22 March 2022, featuring special sessions devoted to the analysis of language, literature and film in these four languages. All welcome! For more information email Stephen.malcolm.hart@ucl.ac.uk

[1] For more information on the project, see research project 17 on the following list:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/european-languages-culture/research/research-projects

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/reforms-to-encourage-more-students-to-take-up-language-gcses

[3] See, for example, the following articles which comment on the Ofqual recommendations: https://www.hmc.org.uk/blog/hmc-comment-on-ofqual-decision-on-reform-of-modern-foreign-languages/; and https://www.fenews.co.uk/education/ascl-media-release-ascl-comment-on-ofqual-decision-on-reform-of-modern-foreign-languages-gcses/