Language skills are ‘more vital than ever’ if the UK is to remain ‘outward looking’ and ‘open for business’ in the run up to Brexit, new British Council research has revealed.
In a survey of over 2,000 UK adults, the majority saw the ability to speak foreign languages as being essential if the UK is to successfully reach out to other countries (63%) – and guarantee continued trade and investment (61%) – in light of the result of the EU referendum.
Over two thirds of those surveyed (67%) believed that as a country, we currently don’t encourage enough young people in the UK to learn other languages, with a similar number (63%) stating that schools need to make more time than ever before for language learning as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.
There was overwhelming support for opportunities that allow young people to experience other languages and cultures – 69% of respondents said that school exchanges and schemes like Erasmus+ should remain open. This rose to 74% amongst 18-24 year olds, highlighting the value that young people themselves place on international experience.
Language uptake in schools remains low when compared to other subjects – this year, the number of pupils taking a languages GCSE was less than half the number of those taking one in maths while overall language entries dropped at both GCSE and A-level – by 5.57% and 3.86% respectively. Previous research by the British Council and Education Development Trust has also found that teachers have ‘deep concerns’ about the current situation facing language learning in schools in England with pressure on curriculum time highlighted as a major challenge.
The new research, carried out by Populus, was commissioned by the British Council – the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities – for International Education Week 2016.