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University admissions people - can I ask how relevant a GCSE in a MFL is when applying for uni?

(117 Posts)
LemonMousse Mon 24-Mar-14 22:37:02

DD is choosing her GCSE options and is recommended for EBACC to include one humanity and one MFL.

She is being told that universities will require her to have a MFL GCSE. She really doesn't want to take French or German but school are adamant she must choose one. If push comes to shove it will be French as she has studied that since Year 7 and German only since Year 8.

She doesn't believe she will be capable of a decent grade in either (neither do I to be honest but I haven't said that to her) and would rather choose a different (non EBACC) subject that she feels she can achieve a higher grade in.

I realise we are 4 years away from uni but I do want her to have the best possible chance - I don't want her to jeopardise things by NOT having a MFL but at the same time if she can achieve an A or A* in another subject would that not be the better option?

Just after a bit of advice from the 'horses mouth' so to speak.

Thank you.

Archibald Mon 24-Mar-14 22:39:58

The most recent admissions guidelines in Scotland (so not GCSE but similar) want a MFL at that level as an indicator of all round ability. My dc will certainly be doing one (dd1 currently choosing her N5 options and even though she hates it, French is in there!!)

MillyMollyMama Mon 24-Mar-14 23:21:16

The usual crowd will be along soon to tell you it is only UCL that stipulate a language at GCSE. A range of GCSEs including an MFL is good currency for many universities though. It shows you are versatile and can grasp different concepts. However not having one will not be a deal breaker so as long as other subjects are solid. Such a shame nearly every post on GCSE options is about DCs who cannot manage a language! Is it only the really bright ones that can these days? But we hear GCSEs are so easy, don't we?

BackforGood Mon 24-Mar-14 23:36:24

I've never seen it as an entry requirement on anything ds has looked at.
(He's about to do his A-levels now, so have been through all the application procedure this school year).

rightsaidfrederick Tue 25-Mar-14 03:23:43

Ditto what Milly said.

The school are pressuring your DD to take an MFL because one of the factors in the league tables is how many students get the (entirely meaningless outside of league tables) ebacc.

The only university that requires an MFL at GCSE for every course is UCL, and if you don't have an MFL GCSE you can just study a language whilst you're there instead

nothruroad Tue 25-Mar-14 04:50:23

Archibald - do you have a link to that info please? Thanks.

UptheChimney Tue 25-Mar-14 06:56:07

A language other than English isn't a requirement at GCSE for most universities any more.

Which is NOT a good thing. This is EDUCATION for life, not to jump through hoops. Being able to speak more than one language is pretty normal in most of the rest of Europe, and quite a lot of the rest of the world.

Nocomet Tue 25-Mar-14 07:21:59

Learning another language may be a good thing, but jumping through the hoops of a MFL GCSE may not be.

1) It's generally agree the present sylabus doesn't teach you to speak the language.

2) The immersive method our Comp and DFs expensive private school use in Y7 leaves a lot of children utterly confused

DD2 had done a bit of French, but in German she hadn't and still hasn't in Y8 a clue.

3) The quality of language teaching is very mixed and has been for decades.

4) The British public at large don't see the point in learning languages when everyone speaks English.

3&4 particularly mean many parents can't help their DCs with their MFL HW

2,3&4 together mean behaviour in MFL lessons is often dreadful.

DD1s lower MFL group was almost a riot, my top set classes weren't much better and DD2's top set never stop talking as far as I can work out.

Thus many DCs get to Y9 knowing bugger all MFL and avoid carrying on.

5) MFLs are very difficult for dyslexics (DD1 finds them really difficult)

BeckAndCall Tue 25-Mar-14 07:37:37

Depends what you mean by 'requrement'. On their website they may not say so, nor include it in their minimum specification, but faced with a pile of applications they can still use it for a differentiating factor between candidates. Good universities don't generally admit to their lowest criteria.

It would be more relevant for a humanities subject than a science and more relevant for a top university than a middle of the road place.

creamteas Tue 25-Mar-14 08:43:11

On their website they may not say so, nor include it in their minimum specification, but faced with a pile of applications they can still use it for a differentiating factor between candidates

As an admissions tutor I am only really interested in something that is relevant to the degree being studied. So it might be considered useful for a candidate for International Relations but would not be relevant for applications to Psychology.

Languages are a good thing, but so are good exam results. Whatever the degree chosen, it is more important to have better grades and no MFL than a poor MFL.

blob24 Tue 25-Mar-14 09:22:39

Maybe she could be looking beyond uni (I know it's difficult at her age). Here is a good (short and easy) reading about the state of MFLs in the UK. MFLs are highly in demand alongside other skills:

And here are videos showing possible careers with a MFL on the CV for inspiration:

But I agree with Nocomet about the syllabus and other points she highlights.

wordfactory Tue 25-Mar-14 10:14:34

An MFL isn't a requirement at many universities but for some courses (not MFL) you will put yourself at a distinct disadvantage by not having one at GCSE.

In the department where I work, you could be expected to be asked about it at interview, and had better have a decent reason.

Nocomet Tue 25-Mar-14 10:16:10

I hope DD2 will do French GCSE as, I suspect, she'll want to do English or history at university and I think it would give the right balance to her CV.

But sadly she won't get the parental support she gets in everything else. DH's only non A grade is for French and he hasn't used it for 34 years.

We got through five teachers in three years and only the woman who went off on maternity for several years was any good. Non of my year who went on to do science degrees studied French or any other MFL.

(Some of our humanities group actually did Welsh, because while useless in our area then, the Welsh teacher was lovely and good. Welsh is a perfectly acceptable MFL at English universities)

wordfactory Tue 25-Mar-14 10:19:53

MillyMolly MFL became so devalued in the state system that it was fast becoming te preserve of the independent sector, where generally at least one MFL is still compulsory.

Like Latin, it will soon be left to the posh boys!

And though I have a posh boy myself, I don't think there's any excuse to allow the system to become ever more two tiered.

This is one of the reasdons I really support Gove in trying to make MFL important again (though I think the curriculum needs sorting and don't agree with his narrow definition of a humanity)...

HPparent Tue 25-Mar-14 10:31:33

Both my children go to state schools and both did Latin and MFL. Nothing to do with Gove and hardly dying away Wordfactory.

OP, RE the MFL if your DD is capable of getting a pass I think she should do it while saying that if she has specific learning difficulties I would think twice. My DD was forced to take Spanish GCSE in year 9. I hired a tutor for 18m and she scraped a B. Constant tears and contact with the school as she cannot learn by rote, she is dyslexic. She has a GCSE certificate but cannot communicate in Spanish.

Slipshodsibyl Tue 25-Mar-14 10:39:32

MFL really isn't that bad in the state system. I have a relative who is an HOD in MFL. The very average intake has a choice of Spanish, French and German and a taster course in Mandarin. She takes language assistants wherever possible and organises overseas visits. However independent schools, already selective, usually have some native speakers in the staff and more easily attract language assistants. This makes a huge difference.

Op, do you have Berlitz or similar near you? you can support a child through GCSE with the right kind iof help outside school

Nocomet Tue 25-Mar-14 11:33:15

I live in an area with several private and Grammar schools. Given language skills are rare in Britain do you think the good MFL teachers apply to these or our difficult to get to rural comp.?

Slipshodsibyl Tue 25-Mar-14 11:37:03

My relative is HOD of a rural comp, but you are right, recruitment is a constant headache.

wordfactory Tue 25-Mar-14 11:53:17

Oh I didn't mean the teaching is bad in the state system MFL departments.

The curriculum with all its failing isn't their fault at all.

I simply meant that year after year of its value being eroded has resulted in a record low in numbers of take up in the state sector. It all becomes circular and IMVHO needs to be addressed not excused.

Slipshodsibyl Tue 25-Mar-14 12:32:44

Part of the reason for that is the harsh and unpredictable marking of mfl, resulting in lowers league table positions and, at A Level, lower grades at a time when high grades in as many subjects as possible are imperative. It is supposed to be being addressed. I also think the A Level syllabus is boring and the IB is more interesting - perhaps pre u too.

MillyMollyMama Tue 25-Mar-14 13:09:18

IB and Pre U are mostly taught in larger independent schools though! I am also aware that the number of MFL candidates at GCSE and A level has gone down considerably since it was no longer compulsory. There is, of course, good teaching in state schools but there is also a problem that many pupils view languages as too difficult and opt out. Language courses at some universities are under threat and lowish offers are commonplace. If a language is part if a dual honours course it can help with getting an offer; it keeps the MFL department topped up with students! Where universities are vastly over subscribed for places on Arts courses, eg History, English etc it seems likely they would want to see a broad range of GCSE subjects.

Although it is not possible to check, does anyone really think Oxford and Cambridge are full of students without an MFL at GCSE? I doubt it. The feeling that MFL subjects are too hard has also been exacerbated by the much wider cohort of young people going to university because they can go without a broad range of GCSEs. As Creamteas says, many university tutors are only interested in a specialist prior education, not a general one which reinforces the message that an MFL is not worth the effort. This is why we delude ourselves about the quality of our students. Students abroad see two or three languages as normal. We need to have similar ambitions.

LemonMousse Tue 25-Mar-14 14:18:26

Thank you everyone - some interesting points there. I now feel a little more informed as I await a call from her Achievement Leader to discuss this.

Bonsoir Wed 26-Mar-14 07:18:55

creamteas - I am fascinated that you think that a MFL is not relevant to a degree in Psychology. Could you explain yourself?

creamteas Wed 26-Mar-14 09:05:27

Bonsoir First, because whenever we have discussed entry requirements with the British Psychological Society during the re-accreditation process for our degrees it is not something that they are interested in.

Second, none of the employers where are students do placements are interested in an MFL GCSE (which is clearly very different to fluency in a language).

Employers who specifically recruit psychology graduates are interested in fluent speakers, but they are usually looking for languages such as Punjabi, Arabic and Urdu. However, they are really not bothered whether or not you have a qualification in that language, especially at GCSE level.

Bonsoir Wed 26-Mar-14 09:07:24

creamteas - ah, so MFL are relevant but a GCSE MFL qualification is not. Fair enough!

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