GCSE languages are being overhauled to drill common words, but critics warn that this could narrow subjects and make them ‘grinding.’
The government believes that focusing on key “building blocks” will increase students’ confidence and motivation, but some teachers are concerned that cultural topics and themes will be cut from the curriculum.
The English government has announced that the French, German, and Spanish school curriculums will be overhauled so that teenagers can focus on learning a set of up to 1,700 commonly used words.
The changes are intended to make the subjects “more accessible and appealing” in order to reverse a decline in language learning, but some teachers have expressed concerns that they will make the GCSEs “prescriptive and grinding.”
The government announced plans to reform modern foreign language GCSEs in March of last year.
The Department for Education said the new syllabuses would focus on the most common vocabulary used in conversations and writing, as well as grammar and pronunciation, after releasing the results of a consultation on Friday.
The new courses will begin teaching in 2024, with the first exams scheduled for 2026.
For the foundation tier GCSE, students will be assessed on 1,200 “word families,” with another 500 word families for the higher tier.
“Manage,” “managed,” and “manages” are examples of word families, with 85 percent of them derived from the 2,000 most frequently occurring words.
Focusing on these “building blocks,” according to the government, will allow students to see their progress more clearly, increasing their confidence and motivation.
However, a number of education organizations have already expressed their displeasure with the changes.
“We fear that rather than encouraging language learning, a curriculum that primarily focuses on memorizing a long list of words will alienate pupils and prove counterproductive,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.
“At a time when students need to be motivated to learn languages, the government has chosen to make GCSEs both prescriptive and arduous.”
“High frequency words definitely have a place to play,” according to Professor René Koglbauer, chair of the Association for Language Learning.
Language teachers, on the other hand, are concerned that a focus on these words will lead to the omission of cultural topics and themes from the curriculum.
“Could we have a chance if we’re given restrictive word lists?” he asked.
UK news summary from Infosurhoy.
GCSE languages overhauled to drill common words – but heads say it could make subjects narrow and ‘grinding’