EFFORTS to promote languages in Scotland’s schools are likely to fail due to a lack of qualified teachers, with the study of foreign tongues now “almost extinct” in the country’s colleges, it has been warned.
The Scottish Government hopes to introduce a “1+2” model in primary schools, with pupils expected to learn two languages, alongside English. But in its submission to a Scottish Parliament inquiry into the plans, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) said that while the idea was well-intentioned, it was likely to be hamstrung by a shortage of teachers with the necessary skills.
ADES said the Scottish Government’s proposals would require a “significant expansion” in language learning during teacher training. And it said the push to promote languages in primary schools was “ironic” given the near “extinction” of language teaching and learning in colleges. The submission reads: “It is difficult to see how that expansion [in language study] will be possible without a major increase in language teaching/training capacity both in university modern languages departments and teacher education departments.”
ADES said the need to diversify into languages such as Arabic, Portuguese and Russian was “unarguable”, but “not wholly realistic”, given the shortage of teachers able to speak those tongues. Under ambitious proposals outlined in 2011, the Scottish Government plans to introduce pupils to a second language in P1, and a third no later than P5.
MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s European and external relations committee will today take evidence from ADES and the council umbrella organisation Cosla. In its submission, Cosla called for members of the local community with foreign languages as their mother tongue to be brought into schools alongside teachers.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said: “While we agree with the principle of widening the experience of languages for primary school pupils, we have grave concerns that the resource implications have not been considered sufficiently.”
A Scottish Government spokesman: “Ministers are ambitious for Scotland’s future, and there is widespread enthusiasm for our plans to improve language learning in Scotland. Evidence suggests these ambitions can be achieved, and we have made £4 million available in next year’s budget agreement with local authorities to support language learning.”