The British Academy shares the concerns of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Languages, Speak to the Future, UCML and others on the planned withdrawal of GCSE and A Level exams in lesser taught languages. The ability to speak a foreign language is vital to cultural understanding, growth, economic competitiveness, research and innovation, employability, as well as security and diplomacy.
Failure to provide accreditation at GCSE and A Level will inevitably have a knock-on effect at higher education levels. Whatever the language, competencies are built up over extended periods of time, and it is not possible to turn capacity off and on again quickly.
Professor Nigel Vincent, Fellow and language lead for the British Academy said: "Our rich multicultural society is itself a soft power asset for the UK. There is a wealth of untapped linguistic resource amongst the school age population in the UK. This needs to be mobilised, supported and given recognition through accreditation. The Academy has called for strategic oversight by Government and relevant funders regarding HE language provision, where similar issues around take-up of languages exist. It is clear that similar action needs to be taken earlier on. While Universities have an influential role in shaping choices of school students, A Levels and GCSEs occur at a pivotal point in our education system."
Richard Hardie, Chair of the Academy’s Born Global initiative and non-Executive Chair of UBS Ltd said: "Early evidence from Born Global shows that employers do indeed need and value an international outlook and authentic intercultural understanding. By limiting the breadth of languages that are offered and accredited, we are denying current and future generations the opportunity to demonstrate this very global mindset and to take their rightful place in our open and highly globalised economy."
The British Academy has written to the relevant Ministers and MPs, drawing attention to these concerns and briefing them on the evidence of demand for lesser taught, but strategically important, languages.