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Choosing GCSEs 2014 - missing a MFL?

(79 Posts)
allweneedislove Fri 24-Jan-14 09:36:19

Started this new thread as all the others I found related to previous years.
DS 13 chooses his options this week. He's a bright lad at a just slightly above average state school. He's setting his sights high as his step dad went to Oxford and he'd secretly like to get there.
His dilemma (if indeed it is one) is he has to choose between Spanish, which is his worst subject but his only MFL, and Engineering which is just up his street. His other subjects are triple science, English, Maths, RS and History (and perhaps something else). He'd like to be a nuclear scientist.
Will the lack of an MFL at GCSE hold him back? Many thanks for any advice.

BronzeHorseman Sun 26-Jan-14 08:54:53

MrsBright my DC has not taken a language but now school are suggesting Oxbridge potential, the GCSE options picked are the standard ones plus engineering, triple science, geography and art plus AS Level critical thinking. Is the lack of a language likely to be an issue? The eventually aim is applying to do medicine so biology and chemistry at A level plus two others yet to be decided.

Reincarnatedpig Sun 26-Jan-14 09:11:45

I didn't describe Spanish as dreary, just that for some people languages are difficult.

DD's experience - Spanish GCSE taken in year 9, dyslexic girl no aptitude for languages (school policy to take language year 9)

- Wake 6am each morning to rote learn Spanish for that days test.
-2 hour lesson 4 days a week.
-HW learning vocab for next days test.
-Frequent tears at yet another poor test mark.
-Frequent conversations with school about quitting - they think they can get her a B.
-Unable to rote learn for speaking test - freezes after first sentence.
-Private tutor comes once a week to try and teach her some conversation and correct mistakes.
-Exams - quite a bit of help from teacher in speaking exam. Some children though not DD have books or papers in full view during writing test.
-Majority of the class get A* - DD gets B.

Clearly no joy in language learning with that experience! It is not about learning the language but passing the exam.

threepiecesuite Sun 26-Jan-14 12:41:05

I'm disheartened to hear about open cheating in some MFL exams. The only resource available during the Writing controlled assessment should be a dictionary.
This seems more prevalent in high-achieving schools, it seems (anecdotally).

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 12:52:47

Reincarnatedpig - the problems encountered by your DD that you describe are a psychological blockage, not a problem with MFL learning per se.

busymummy3 Sun 26-Jan-14 13:42:35

This Ebacc 'not worth the paper it is written on ' as far as I am aware there is no certificate or paper it is written . My Dd passed all Ebacc subjects in Summer 2013 . She did not receive any separate certificate for the Ebacc subjects . I thought it was simply another performance measure for school league tables. I went on DE website to check and states there is no physical certificate issued to the students. How do universities know therefore that students like my Dd achieved the Ebacc?

Reincarnatedpig Sun 26-Jan-14 14:22:10

That's interesting Bonsoir. Why do you say that? DD cannot learn by rote I assumed because she is dyslexic. I taught her a couple of words in Dutch when we went to Amsterdam and she couldn't even remember "my name is.." though the structure is similar to English.

Agree about the Ebacc. DD1 goes to a super-selective with great results but some girls do RE instead of geography/history. So don't get the Ebacc. - what does it measure - crap! Encourage children to do a range but not in that way and why no arts?

Re the exam - I was shocked. I don't think it is widespread at the school though judging by the other exams DD has done.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 15:12:04

Because languages are not learned by rote! It is impossible to learn a language through rote learning. But if your DD was sure and certain that that was how they were learned, she was set up to fail.

Your DD needed to learn to listen to language with her ears and to acquire its sounds without even thinking of the written word (this is doubly important for dyslexic DC).

Dyslexic DC are often excellent foreign language learners by the way!

yourlittlesecret Sun 26-Jan-14 15:30:11

Sadly it's a mistake to think that GCSE languages are anything to do with learning a language.
DS1 got A* in French but did it entirely by memorising the stuff he needed to churn out in the tests. He couldn't string a sentence together now, less than 2 years later.

Reincarnatedpig Sun 26-Jan-14 16:06:03

Bonsoir unfortunately that is the way languages are taught in most schools. She did conversation with the tutor and picked up a few phrases but it was almost incidental.

I agree that the best way to learn is by listening and preferably immersive.

DD didn't make it up. The teacher made the class memorise the vocab. We had discussions at parents day. Her suggested method was to write it out several times in columns folding the paper over. There were lists to learn every night and tests each lesson. If DD had 5 years of learning and took it in year 11 things might have been different.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 16:12:29

I'm sure the teaching/curriculum was inadequate! It wasn't your DD's fault.

wordfactory Sun 26-Jan-14 16:29:16

That's correct mummy.

No one is forced to do it. No certificate is awarded for it.

But it is a (reasonable-ish) measure of a rounded education. Certainly most independent schools insist that all pupils take an MFL. And many universities, Oxbridge included like to see it where possible. Not a pre requisite but a preference IYSWIM.

busymummy3 Sun 26-Jan-14 17:45:53

Thank you WordPerfect saved me checking her certificates then contacting the school to see if she should have had a separate Ebacc one. It is very confusing though especially if like me and DH who have no teaching /education background or contacts . What I do not understand is if there is no certificate , so nothing to show universities or employers what exactly is the point of it? Other than the obvious school performance measurement?

senua Sun 26-Jan-14 18:13:17

What I do not understand is if there is no certificate , so nothing to show universities or employers what exactly is the point of it? Other than the obvious school performance measurement?

shock It's called a rounded education.

MostWicked Sun 26-Jan-14 18:32:17

You can still have a rounded education without an MFL.

MostWicked Sun 26-Jan-14 18:35:32

I did French and German O'Levels
Complete, total and utter waste of time.
Passed both but wished I had taken other subjects, particularly for German, which I found a really hard slog.

senua Sun 26-Jan-14 18:43:14

I think that studying a foreign language gives you more insight into your native language. The native language is so instinctive that you don't think about it - it's only when you study the grammar of another language that you even realise that things like 'present pluperfect' even exist.

littlesquid Sun 26-Jan-14 18:46:24

My DD is at Oxford and has no MFL at GCSE.

She also has a couple of GCSEs in subjects that I've heard are substandard - Theatre Studies, ICT.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Jan-14 18:47:34

Studying MFL gives you more insight into your own language and, if you pursue the study of MFL (quite a long way), it can give you insight into your own culture and the prism in which you think. Which is absolutely fascinating.

Awks Sun 26-Jan-14 18:59:00

We've just done this - my dd chose Spanish because I bribed her with a tenner over Food Tech. is he amenable to being bribed do you think smile

wordfactory Sun 26-Jan-14 19:13:25

littlesquid to repeat.

An MFL is not a pre requisite for Oxbridge. No one said it was.

But it is a preference.

In my department (not MFL) an applicant without an MFL might well expect to explain why they didn't take an MFL at interview.

MostWicked Sun 26-Jan-14 20:31:10

Studying MFL gives you more insight into your own language and, if you pursue the study of MFL (quite a long way), it can give you insight into your own culture and the prism in which you think. Which is absolutely fascinating.

Which is wonderful if YOU find it fascinating, but I didn't and I never got that insight and I haven't got a clue what you are talking about with the culture and prism in which you think!
If you cannot bear MFLs, then you are far better off dropping them for something that suits you better.

When you choose your options, you need to consider how much you enjoy that subject. So often people chose the sensible option (pushed by parents and teachers), over the option they love. People end up at University, studying subjects that don't inspire them and end up in jobs they hate.

busymummy3 Mon 27-Jan-14 21:58:23

Senna I believe my Dd did have a ROUNDED education -
She achieved 12 GCSE's last summer- 9A*s and 3A's.
She also achieved Full marks for French and Spanish(300)
All I am trying to say is why is there a need for an EBACC - my Dd would have chosen subjects she studied anyway. And who gets to know that she has achieved it - can universities or employers not tell she has ad a rounded education from her GCSE Certificate ?

busymummy3 Mon 27-Jan-14 21:59:49


busymummy3 Mon 27-Jan-14 22:02:48

Apologies for misspelling of your name senua .blush

senua Mon 27-Jan-14 22:43:11

A few years ago, languages were dropped from the list at KS4. Because it was no longer compulsory some schools did away with whole languages department.shock
Schools were measured on '5 GCSE' without really considering which GCSE, so pupils were steered towards easily-obtainable-but-a-bit-MickyMouse subjects.
Then the EBacc was invented and schools were measured on it. Suddenly, languages and more rigorous subjects are back in vogue, would you believe.hmm
You are lucky if you can say that your DD would have studied her subjects anyway - not everyone had that option a few years ago.

So if the question is "why is there a need for an EBacc" then the answer is "because organisations react to performance measurement"

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