The aims of the renewed strategy place multilingualism centre stage and see the MFL Student Mentoring Project aligned to achieving these aims. The aims of the strategy are to:
- Increase the number of young learners studying languages at all levels and across all sectors
- Provide clear guidance, principles and raise awareness in all sectors to support multilingualism in schools in Wales
- Support excellent teaching and learning of international languages for all learners
The New Curriculum for Wales – hope for languages?
The themes of multilingualism, identity, creativity and global citizenship follow closely the ethos and approach of the Mentoring Project and offers hope for a new outlook and trajectory for languages when the New Curriculum is fully rolled out in 2022. We aspire to an inclusive and plurilingual approach for language learning and learners.
THE ATTRITION RATES FROM GCSE TO A-LEVEL
The attrition rates from GCSE to A-level reveal that only 1% of Welsh students completed an A-level in a modern foreign language in 2018 (Stats Wales, 2019).
The reasons for this decline are many and complex. They include: lack of space for languages in school timetabling, conflicting option blocks, perceptions of languages as difficult and cultural attitudes to language learning as a ‘useful’ subject exacerbated by Brexit societal tensions (Gorrara, 2017, pp. 150-2).
ENTRANTS TO GCSE IN WALES - AN ALL TIME LOW?
In 2017-18, only 18.6% of all entrants to GCSE in Wales studied a modern foreign language at GCSE (Stats Wales, 2018).
DECLINE AT A-LEVEL
The reduction at A-level is also severe. Overall numbers have decreased by 47% since 2002 (Tinsley, 2019, p. 24). This is worrying given the small numbers of learners from which this percentage is being drawn; in particular in Wales.
MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES AT GCSE
Since 2002, the uptake of modern foreign languages at GCSE has fallen by 57% (Tinsley, 2018, p. 22). This decline has accelerated in recent years, with the total number of GCSE entries in modern foreign languages declining by 32% from 2013-2018 (Stats Wales 2019).
Languages in Wales
Since devolution in 1997, Wales has invested significantly in the pedagogy and practice of second-language acquisition across education, supporting the centrality of the Welsh language to cultural identity and a sense of belonging. Wales would seem, therefore, to be a nation where the values and benefits of language learning are recognized and supported. Yet, the uptake of modern foreign languages in Welsh schools has witnessed a dramatic decline in the state-maintained sector over the last two decades.