Only One Foreign Language Has Seen an Increase in Students in City Schools. Is It French, Spanish, German? No, It's. ARABIC

Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), December 11, 2005 | Go to article overview

Only One Foreign Language Has Seen an Increase in Students in City Schools. Is It French, Spanish, German? No, It's. ARABIC


Byline: EXCLUSIVE BY FIONNUALA BOURKE

GCSE students are shunning foreign language subjects with one exception - Arabic.

Birmingham City Council has revealed a 20 per cent decrease in French students in the past two years, and almost 50 per cent fall in other languages like German and Spanish.

But in the same period, Arabic has seen a 40 per cent rise in students.

The slump in traditional modern foreign languages has been blamed on a relaxation of GCSE exam requirements, apathy from pupils and a shortage of foreign language teachers.

Councillor Jon Hunt, chairman of Birmingham's Education Scrutiny Committee, said: 'Arabic is the only community or heritage language to have shown an increase in students.

'This is probably because the language is already popular in the community, including in Mosques and family homes.

'Students may have become more interested in learning it at school as a result of their home life and when they hear their fellow students discussing it.'

The city council said 85 pupils studied Arabic in 2003/4, a figure that shot up to 118 last year.

The subject is only taught at a select number of schools across the city, including Moseley Language College.

But students are drawn from schools across Birmingham, including Kings Norton, Sutton Coldfield, Bordesley Green, Kings Heath, Washwood Heath and Saltley.

Coun Hunt is now urging his local authority to promote more foreign language teaching in schools.

Overseas

He said: 'Britain has always been bad at learning overseas languages.

'We can no longer rely on the dominance of English in the world and even Americans are now flocking to learn subjects like Chinese. …

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