Thursday 24 August 2017


The 2017 GCSE entry figures show an overall drop of 7.3% in the number of Modern Foreign Language exams. The number of French exams has fallen by 9.9% in the past year, with a 13.2% drop in German. The number of Spanish exams has also fallen year on year by 1.8%. In total, there were almost 300,000 Modern Foreign Language entries in 2017 compared with more than 770,000 GCSE maths entries and more than 760,000 entries GCSE English language entries. Overall Modern Foreign Language entries have almost halved in the past two decades.

Commenting on the figures, Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council, said:

“It’s fantastic to see hundreds of thousands of students getting a modern language GCSE today – the ability to speak another language is an invaluable skill.

“However, the continued decline in overall uptake of languages in schools is worrying. This is not the direction we should be taking if the UK is to remain a globally-facing nation in the years ahead.

“It’s particularly disappointing to see the languages of some of our nearest European neighbours – which are all important for the UK’s place in the world – suffering declines. French and German are down by 9.9% and 13.2% respectively while Spanish entries have fallen by 1.8%. 

“And despite there being a welcome increase in some less traditional but highly valued languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, this sadly is not enough to compensate for the wider downturn. Over the past two decades, the number of pupils taking a language at GCSE has almost halved. 

“We need more people to realise that learning a language isn’t just a rewarding way to connect with another culture but it boosts job prospects too. Quite simply, we must work harder to encourage young people to develop their language skills and to pass on these valuable skills by becoming the language teachers of the future.”

Notes to Editor

For more information, please contact Kristen McNicoll in the British Council Press Office on 0207 389 4967 or

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we directly reach over 65 million people and more than 660 million people via broadcasts and publications.

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