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The Debate on Modern Languages in the House of Lords

21 June 2011

Baroness Coussins (Crossbench)

My Lords, I will raise briefly two or three issues connected with modern languages in relation to some of the Bill’s objectives. I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages.

The case for languages is key to the underlying drive to improve the overall quality of school education. There are cognitive, educational, social and economic benefits; but the UK is failing badly, with fewer pupils in the state sector taking language GCSEs every year. The English baccalaureate has provided a modest boost for languages, but only about 15 per cent of pupils are covered, and take-up of languages in state comprehensives is less than half that in independent and selective schools. Modern languages degree courses at university are vulnerable, partly because the Government have not heeded the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, that languages should be a strategic priority for public investment, and instead have changed the funding system in a way that threatens the survival of modern languages degrees. The UK will be put at an even greater disadvantage-not to mention embarrassment-by our failure to produce sufficient graduates interested in careers as linguists.

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