Thursday, 15 December 2011

Inspiring language learners of the future

Last night I attended the launch of a report published by the Education and Employers Taskforce on the economic case for language learning and the role of employer engagement [1].  The report, endorsed by ASCL, Business for New Europe and CfBT Education Trust, contains compelling evidence on the importance of languages as a skill for the current and future UK workforce, as well as highlighting the issues that languages face in today’s policy climate.
The profile of the speakers highlighted the importance of the subject. Brian Lightman, Sir Jim Rose, Professor James Foreman Peck and business leaders including Richard Hardie of UBS all spoke out in favour of the benefits of languages and language learning for employability and personal development.
While Brian Lightman noted that languages had been ‘kicked about in so many directions’ in our school system, he pointed out that the research presented at the event emphasized just how important languages are to employers and therefore how important they are to school and college students.  However, he stressed the need for more messages from a wide range of employers communicating the value of language skills. The importance of getting employers, and employees, into schools to talk about their personal experience of the value of language skills was also discussed, and the Education and Employers Taskforce’s scheme Inspiring the Future should provide a much-needed mechanism for this type of engagement between business and education.
It is too early yet to assess the impact that developments such as the English Baccalaureate are having on languages in our school system, but the media recently has been full of examples of how awarding bodies, schools and teachers are pressurised into various activities to ensure the maximum results for pupils. While performance tables exist, who can blame schools for discouraging students from following a GCSE in which they feel they won’t get a high grade? And unfortunately, for many this GCSE will be a language, no matter how much enjoyment they get from the subject.
As language provision in schools suffers from timetabling pressures, staff cuts and the perception that is it is a difficult subject, first hand testimonies from individuals in the workplace can inspire learners to continue with language learning and enhance their global job prospects at the same time. I’m sure Inspiring the Future can make a real difference to the profile of language learning, and if you want to get involved and go into schools to talk about the benefits of languages to your career, why not register today, at www.inspiringthefuture.org ?



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