Languages boost

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Your report (29 April) rightly highlighted the need to increase access to language learning in Scotland’s schools. I would, however, like to clarify a couple of points.

The largest drop in numbers occurred nearly two decades ago, between 1994 and 1995, when the numbers taking Highers dropped from 9,009 in 1994 to 8,168 in 1995 – a 9.3 per cent reduction in one year. Since 2006, however, it has stabilised.

The Scottish Government would like to see this number start to increase again and to see more pupils across all school years having greater access to language learning across their school careers. Language learning brings great benefits both to the learner and to Scotland’s economic prospects. That is precisely why we have committed ourselves, over the next two parliaments, to creating the conditions for young people to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue. Our 1+2 languages policy is the most ambitious to be introduced in Scotland in terms of young people learning languages.

This policy has been widely welcomed, and is backed with an additional £4 million in this financial year alone. This investment will be informed by what we learn from a number of pilot projects currently under way.

Elsewhere in the same edition, you highlighted good practice in the report “Mandarin blossoms”. This government has brought in Mandarin learning in 13 Confucius classroom hubs, covering 17 local authorities since 2007 and the numbers of pupils taking Mandarin qualifications increased by 94 per cent over the past year. The number of pupils taking Spanish qualifications has also increased. This is precisely the kind of work our policy seeks to spread; and I thank you for highlighting what can be achieved.

DR ALASDAIR ALLAN

Minister for learning, science and Scotland’s languages

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