Exam boards choose not to redevelop GCSE and A level exams in small-entry languages

With the introduction of new GCSE and A level specifications for languages from 2016 (for French, German and Spanish – 2017 for other languages) – some exam boards have announced their intention not to redevelop qualifications in a range of small-entry languages. The languages affected are:

A level: Bengali, Modern Hebrew, Panjabi and Polish (AQA); Dutch, Gujarati, Persian, Portuguese, Turkish (OCR); Arabic, Modern Greek, Japanese and Urdu (Edexcel).

GCSE: Dutch, Gujarati, Persian, Portuguese, Turkish (OCR).

Other small-entry languages present ‘significant awarding and resourcing challenges,’ according to one of the awarding bodies, including:

  • Difficulties sourcing examiners and other experts,
  • Smaller numbers of entries, meaning that it is not cost-effective to redevelop the qualifications under the new, tighter assessment requirements, and there are difficulties in the statistical underpinning of grade boundaries,
  • More rigorous conditions attached to the new A-level specifications, and the need to teach and assess cultural content as well as language skills.

However, many language professionals believe, as does former  ALL Council member Teresa Tinsley, that the future of language exams is “too important an issue to leave to commercial organisations”.

Before the general election, both Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and then shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt pledged to “guarantee the future” of GCSEs and A-levels in minority languages such as Polish, Gujarati, Bengali and Turkish.

Association for Language Learning: Open letter to The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education, about ‘minority’ languages.

S2F: Speak to the Future update: The withdrawal of GCSE and A level exams in small-entry languages

NewsPearson: Pearson to withdraw GCE AS and A level Arabic, Greek, Japanese and Urdu from 2017: Pearson are revising their GCSE and A level qualifications in line with the new criteria from Ofqual, and have decided not to redevelop our GCE AS and A level Arabic, Modern Greek, Japanese and Urdu qualifications for first teaching in 2017.

OCR: OCR has announced its intention to discontinue some language qualifications: GCSEs and A-levels in Turkish, Portuguese, Persian, Gujarati and Dutch will not be redeveloped from 2017.

AQA: AQA to discontinue some language A-levels: A-levels in Polish, Punjabi, Modern Hebrew and Bengali will not be offered in the future.

SQA: Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to drop Russian as a Higher qualification: Russian ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Dr Alexander Yakovenko, says that the decision could have an adverse effect both on the prospects for individual learners and the wider competitiveness of the Scottish economy.

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