The 2015 GCSE entry figures show an overall drop in the number of Modern Foreign Language exams. The number of French exams has fallen by 6.2% compared with 2014, with a 9.8% drop in German. The number of Spanish exams has also declined in the past year, falling 2.4% although the number of students opting to take Spanish at GCSE has still more than doubled in the past two decades.
Commenting on the figures, Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council, said:
“It’s disappointing to see this year’s overall decline in the number of language GCSEs with traditional languages French and German falling by 6.2% and 9.8% respectively. While it is good to see that the number of Spanish entries on the whole has more than doubled in the past two decades, the general rise in Spanish that we have witnessed in recent years now appears to have stalled with entries down 2.4% on last year. This is particularly worrying given that Spanish has been recognised as the language the UK needs the most*.
“The main silver lining today is that we have seen some increases in the uptake of Mandarin Chinese (18%), Portuguese (8.9%) and Arabic (3.8%) - three languages vital for the UK’s future – but sadly this isn’t enough to compensate for the downturn in language learning across the board.
“The reality is that as this general decline continues, the UK risks falling behind on the world stage. Employers are crying out for more language skills, we all need to realise that learning a language isn’t just a rewarding way to connect with another culture but will boost job prospects too. It is vital that we encourage far more of our young people to develop their language skills in order to effectively connect, live and work with their counterparts around the globe and to pass on these valuable skills by becoming the language teachers of the future.”