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Languages for economic growth and individual prosperity

Baroness Coussins, in the UK House of Lords Economy:Modern Languages debate of 3rd December, 2009, in speaking of the findings of the Worton Report on the future of modern languages provision in English universities, said, in part: “Professor Worton calls on the Government to up the ante on expectations for secondary schools. I hope that the Minister will agree to take this up with his DSF colleagues, in particular the need to upgrade to a mandatory target the current very vague hope that 50 to 60 per cent of students should take a language until they are 16. We know that this is completely ignored by a vast majority of state schools, which do their pupils a great disservice by excluding them from one of the skills that would maximise their employability.The principal recommendation for the Government in the Worton review, however, is to upgrade their own messages about the importance of  languages and to work with others across all sectors to communicate them. I warmly welcome the announcement that the Minister of State, David Lammy, will chair the new forum, in which government, HEFCE, the universities, CILT, schools and employers will all work together on this, but could the Government please be more consistent and remember languages all the time? It is quite astonishing and extremely disappointing that the new national strategy, Skills for Growth, publicised only two weeks ago, does not contain one single mention of language skills. I hope that I have given enough examples today to convince the Minister that a strategy that says its objectives are economic growth and individual prosperity is seriously incomplete without language skills being integrated into it.” Baroness Coussins states “The Foreign Office has reported complaints from some companies bringing inward investment to the UK that they have to source qualified engineers from their home markets because UK engineers do not have the relevant language skills, and a good grasp of the parent company’s home language is an important skill they expect from people in technical or management jobs.” The Baroness goes on to mention the finding of a survey of earnings three and a half years after graduation, which showed that modern linguists earn more than graduates from any other discipline except medics, architects and  pharmacologists.  This sounds awfully familiar in multi-cultural yet largely monolingual, highly export-dependent and skills-sensitive Australia.  What are we waiting for?

admin : August 9, 2011 , ,