A LACK of suitably qualified teachers could hold up Scotland’s attempts to teach primary school children two foreign languages, education experts have claimed.
Addressing a committee of MSPs yesterday, educationalists said the Scottish Government’s “1+2” proposals, were “laudable”, but would require more investment in teacher training.
Under ambitious proposals first outlined in 2011, the Scottish Government plans to introduce pupils to a second language in P1, and a third no later than P5.
A report published by the Scottish Government’s Modern Languages Working Group the same year called for a “radical change of approach” in language learning.
But giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s European and external relations committee, Dr Dan Tierney of Strathclyde University said there was currently a lack of teachers with the necessary language skills to teach a foreign tongue from as early as P1.
“I want this to succeed, but it’s quite an ambitious target,” he said. “We need to decide what our objectives are. If we are talking about competing (with other countries) we’ve got to be realistic that that would need everybody to do the same language.
“I’m not sure teachers are ready to go to P1. It’s very laudable, but I don’t think we are there. We need to decide what our objectives are. That’s the starting point and that’s where I was worried about the report because I don’t think it gives a clear steer.
“Teachers move around. You could have a teacher in your constituency who learns German and then goes to another school where teachers learn French. It’s a question of what we need to achieve – that’s the starting point.”
Brian Templeton, of Glasgow University’s School of Education, added: “It’s a fairly expensive programme that you would be embarking on, but I think it’s essential if you want to make a difference there.”
Antonella Sorace, a linguistics expert at Edinburgh University, said: “I think this is a real turning point. Having more than one language in the same brain is a fantastic advantage for all children and provides them with great mental flexibility.
“The private sector is entirely aware of the problem – something needs to be done.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have earmarked an additional £4 million for languages to assist local authorities to begin to take forward the languages policy in 2013-14.”