Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Full English: Why Can't the English Teach English to the British?

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Full English: Why Can't the English Teach English to the British?

Article excerpt

As the dividing lines are drawn up for the general election it is worth remembering what holds a nation together.

It seems obvious but sharing a common language is a vital step towards social cohesion amongst our communities and the building of a shared culture. Yet in the UK we are failing to teach English adequately to the migrants who live and work amongst us. That is one of the conclusions made in a recent report by the influential think tank Demos, entitled 'On Speaking Terms'.

Shockingly, around 850,000 migrants class their own English language abilities as non-existent or poor. Looking at it from the perspective of integration, this is highly unsatisfactory. But when you consider that without English language skills these migrants are locked into low paid employment with all the social and economic ills that produces it becomes even less defensible.

The Demos report also highlighted that successive governments had failed to develop a joined up policy for the delivery of English language learning for our migrant populations. Labour spent nearly twice as much as the Coalition during their time in office and it's been of little value. So it's not a question of mere money.

Another note noteworthy report that came out in the last parliament was by the Business and Innovation Select Committee on adult literacy and numeracy. Again it paints a sorry picture. It highlighted that "England is the only country in the developed world where the generation approaching retirement is more literate and numerate than the youngest adults, with adults aged 55 to 65 in England performing better than 16 to 24 year olds at foundation levels of literacy and numeracy".

In addition, 24 per cent of adults scored at or below level one (that's grades D to G at GCSE level) compared to an average of 19 per cent across all OECD countries. …

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