GCSEs’ Results 2013
The EBacc, announced in 2010, is a mark of achievement for all those students who get more than a “C” in the chosen core subjects: maths, science, English, history, geography and a foreign language. The increase has been moderate, with percentages of students taking language exams returning to 2010 levels but still far from getting anywhere near the figures from the 1990s. A total of 44 per cent of the 16-year-old English pupils chose to take a language exam this year.
At the beginning of the 90s, around 300,000 students sat for a 16-plus examination in French and, although there has been an increase in the number of GCSE French entrants, this year’s number of students sitting for French is 177,000. The only language which did not suffer a similar fate is Spanish, with a considerably higher number of students taking Spanish exams this year: 91,000 compared to 32,000 in 1993.
Past Language-Related Decisions
In 2002, the English government decided to make language in secondary schools an optional subject. That quickly led to a decrease in the total number of students studying languages and taking language exams, turning a large number of English students into monoglots. Pupils chose to switch to other subjects like maths and science, encouraged by the emphasis the government placed on them. This situation turns 2013 into the first year to experience a reverse in the tendency since the initial measure taken in 2002.
Hopes for the Future
Even though the rise in the percentages looks encouraging, there is hesitation about whether the tendency will remain the same in the future. Research has shown that the increase in students taking language exams after GCSEs is not being reflected in the percentage of pupils taking A-level language exams at 18. In fact, A-level entries for French and German have fallen by about 10 per cent. Another concern is language not being made compulsory in primary schools, nor being required by the university admissions system. The belief that English is enough to communicate anywhere in the world due to its current status as lingua franca is also preventing students from choosing to study a foreign language.