23/07/2014 UCML welcomes ALCAB report on new modern languages A levels

Responding to the report of the A-level Content Advisory Board’s panel reviewing modern foreign and classical languages, the University Council of Modern Languages has published its response.

See the ALCAB report

“UCML would like to congratulate the ALCAB panel reviewing the content of AS and A levels in modern foreign and classical languages. Their report highlights the enriching and valuable contribution that language study can make to communication skills and critical thinking. They identify a number of weaknesses in the current curriculum, and make proposals which aim to optimise the value of these qualifications, not only to students moving onto a higher education programme in the language of study, but also to those studying other languages or other disciplines at university, as well as to those moving directly to the world of work. The proposals should also contribute to reversing the decline in the take up of language study post-16. UCML welcomes a number of significant improvements for the languages GCEs:

  • An integrated curriculum combining language and content in both teaching and assessment
  • A three-part structure covering the language of study, its social, political, historical, and cultural context, and individual creative works
  • An AS curriculum allowing co-teaching with the first year of A level, and an individual research project (for second-year A level students only)
  • A wide range of reading tasks
  • The development of students’ language skills alongside their capacity for critical and analytical thinking, and fostering reflection on learners’ own language, society and culture
  • An approach to grammar which references key linguistic concepts, is applied to everyday written and spoken language in different registers, and develops independent, competent and confident users of the language of study and learners of other languages
  • Teaching and assessment mainly in the language of study, including a written exam long enough for an extended piece of writing
  • A two-part oral assessment comprising a presentation and discussion
  • Translation tasks into the language of study and into English, developing skills introduced at GCSE

UCML recognises that the proposal to include an assessed analytical essay written in English on a creative work in the language of study (however small the overall weighting) may be controversial with some stakeholder groups. However, this sits alongside an assessed descriptive/critical essay written in the language of study, and UCML is confident that imaginative teaching and assessment approaches can be adopted which will ensure the essay written in English does not encroach on the focus in the classroom on use of the language of study.

Finally, UCML would encourage the use of the term ‘modern languages’ in preference to ‘modern foreign languages’. The notion of ‘foreign’ is a misnomer since many learners are bilingual or near-native users of the language of study; it also reflects a colonialist mind set in which all languages are ‘foreign’ apart from English.”

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