Modern languages qualifications in Northern Ireland: student and teacher perceptions of difficulty, grading and decision-making

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Learner uptake of languages at GCSE and A Level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is in perpetual decline. These negative trends towards language learning beyond the compulsory phase (after age 14) are often attributed to low levels of learner interest and the ‘English is enough’ thesis. However, there is growing evidence that, in addition to the low value ascribed to languages by some groups of young people, perceptions of languages qualifications as less accessible than non-language qualifications have a negative effect on uptake at an individual level and provision at the school-level.

This mixed-methods study, conducted in multiple strands, engages with students and teachers in Northern Ireland to gather both quantitative and qualitative data which provide insights into the landscape of post-14 languages curriculum and assessment. The findings show how students experience choice and motivation in relation to studying languages, the factors they consider in exercising those choices and the potential for both internal and external factors to act as restrictions on their decision-making. This study provides original data relating to perceptions of languages qualifications as high-risk options with concerns reported by both students and teachers about content, difficulty and grading.
Period13 Nov 201916 Nov 2019
Event titleThe Association for Educational Assessment (AEA)-Europe, 20th Annual Conference: Assessment for transformation: Teaching, learning and improving educational outcomes
Event typeConference
LocationLisbon, Portugal