Languages education: learner perspectives from Northern Ireland and Wales

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Across the devolved UK jurisdictions there are multiple convergences and divergences in the language education policy environment. Whilst learning a language is compulsory from the ages of 11-14 in each jurisdiction the provision at primary level varies greatly. Nonetheless, the most concerning issues in languages education relate to the post-14 phases. The continuing decline in uptake of languages at GCSE and A level, and the associated reduction in the number of ‘independent’ language users , presents a significant challenge to the UK’s social, political and economic future. Each year the publication of GCSE and A level results is accompanied by news headlines touting the ever-declining ‘popularity’ of languages against a backdrop of rising enthusiasm for STEM subjects.
This research adopts a mixed methods-methods approach, using a quantitative survey and qualitative focus groups, to explore young people’s views and experiences of language curriculum and assessment. The resulting data illustrates the range of issues underlying the ever-declining uptake of languages from the perspective of young people. In addition, the findings illustrate how young people make decisions around continuing to study languages at GCSE and A level and offer insight into how those decisions are limited by perceptions of features of languages curriculum and assessment. The paper concludes by proposing policy remedies informed by the perspective of young people in Northern Ireland and Wales which have the potential to renew enthusiasm for languages at KS4 and beyond.
Period02 Sep 2019
Event titleUK Language Policy After Brexit
Event typeConference
LocationBelfast, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational