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Top secondary school, but less than five percent of year 11's

(27 Posts)
DorothyL Sun 19-Mar-17 20:19:43

want to do anything MFL related at university. I find this truly shocking. They all want to go into STEM which is great, but why is there such a reluctance to do languages?

DorothyL Sun 19-Mar-17 20:23:47

I think it's even just two or three in a year group of 120

titchy Sun 19-Mar-17 20:28:30

Because there are many many many more subjects than languages! STEM, which is several subjects, as you point out, art, music, English, business, law, media, sociology, psychology etc etc etc.

3% doing each of these gives you almost half the cohort (don't forget a lot won't go to university at all) - how many do you think should be doing language degrees?

Gianticicle Sun 19-Mar-17 21:12:31

Brexit? Maybe they don't think the opportunities to live and work in the EU are going to be available to them.

goodbyestranger Sun 19-Mar-17 21:33:33

Because MFL have been in shocking decline for years and the curriculum has been excruciatingly dull.

Because in top state secondary schools there is huge parental pressure to do science subjects rather than arts.

Because MFL are difficult for plenty of DC.

titchy, at a top secondary you would expect almost all DC to continue to uni.

titchy Sun 19-Mar-17 21:43:55

Maybe. But given that there are hundreds of subject areas of which MFL is only one I'm not sure this is particularly surprising.

I do agree our school MFL provision is very poor though. Culturally I guess as the world seems to speak English there's not such a desire in the UK to learn another language.

RubyWinterstorm Sun 19-Mar-17 21:50:44

There are not really many jobs you can with mfl

Am saying this an mfl student who is fluent in 3 languages....

Never got me job!

People, at interviews say: "wow, you speak 4 languages. Great! Now, are you happy to design websites in Drupal?" grin

It has NEVER got me a job! Data entry job at IBM opened up the whole world of IT for me though...

ZombieApocalips Sun 19-Mar-17 22:06:16

I'm assuming that top secondary school means that the kids aim for the highest paying/most prestigious careers so I'd expect Law, Medicine, Accountancy, Engineering to dominate.
Brexit means that the odds of living abroad or being an expat may be decreased so I'd expect language degree demand to decrease.

harderandharder2breathe Sun 19-Mar-17 22:37:58

I don't know anyone who did MFL at uni, my (small) uni didn't even do any languages except Welsh. None of my friends from sixth form (even those who did MFL A-levels) or my colleagues now did MFL degrees.

Why are you fixating on that? Have you compared the percentage at this school with other similar schools? I can't imagine great numbers of MFL degree students from most schools tbh.

bojorojo Sun 19-Mar-17 23:24:29

MFL students don't necessarily ever expect to work using their languages. The skills learnt and the year abroad are much wider than pure language acquisition. As so many young people don't bother or find languages difficult, those who can do languages are in a good position for employment and further training if they have bothered to do work experience and are prepared to train further. There is no reason MFL grads cannot get into grad job schemes.

I think we are complacent about a number of things in the U.K. and believe we don't need to bother. MFL pushes people intellectually and often MFL students wouldn't do maths or physics anyway.

Ontopofthesunset Mon 20-Mar-17 07:50:08

You can become a lawyer or accountant with an MFL degree! The MFL graduates I know have a range of jobs from small business owner to teacher to politician to theatrical agent. Others are in marketing and broadcasting. Some became accountants but have since moved on to other management roles. Like many arts degrees, MFL teaches thinking and analysis skills along with the useful adjunct of a couple of languages.

goodbyestranger Mon 20-Mar-17 08:03:55

MFL are highly prized degrees I completely agree bojo. It's an absolute disgrace that MFL have been so degraded in the state sector and that the tedium of the curriculum has made MFL teachers weep. Things have improved on that front now though (just), so perhaps things will pick up. Talk of not really needing to speak foreign languages is depressing beyond belief, let's hope young people in England aren't really that insular.

swingofthings Mon 20-Mar-17 09:27:18

I personally think that the way languages is taught in this country at GCSE level doesn't make it attractive at all to pupils. I am friends with 4 language teachers (not native of the UK) and they totally agree.

DD took French at GCSE and it felt that studying about the exam had little to do with learning the language. It was about making sure to tick all the right boxes to ensure to get an A. The topics she had to write/talk about seemed very immature, all about what they do in every day life, holidays etc..., nothing at all about the history, culture, geography, politics, cinema etc... of the country, which DD would have found much more interesting to discuss than the fact that the sea water was cold last time she went on holiday.

DS was encouraged to take a language too as he did well, but we agreed that he wouldn't find the curriculum interesting either. It's not the language that is the problem, its the topics that come with it.

mouldycheesefan Mon 20-Mar-17 09:31:51

Because it's not neccessary. I work in an international company we have 30 countries, business is French owned. We all work in English. Locally people will work in local languages but the common language across the business is English.
Plus more and more translation etc is automated.
If you want to learn a useful language, learn coding.
Having said that Arabic is on the rise, MI5 etc want Arabic speakers.
I see zero point in learning French, Spanish, German, despite studying MFL to uni level myself.

BigGreenOlives Mon 20-Mar-17 09:40:08

Coding will be automated soon too. High achieving young people are moving towards jobs which require human analysis & input.

BackforGood Mon 20-Mar-17 09:50:39

Not sure why you find that so shocking.
If you look at job security and also pay scales, then, if a pupil were really equally talented at every subject which seems unlikely then an MFL degree isn't the way forward.
Now, I agree that everyone doing a degree should choose a subject they love, and I think an MFL degree is a really good one to do, but you seemt o be making out it is a choice between STEM and MFL. what about the myriad of other subjects out there ? confused

mouldycheesefan Mon 20-Mar-17 09:55:12

@biggreenolives thanks I didn't know that about coding.

4 of the top ten jobs today didn't exist 10 years ago. the future can be hard to predict.

They say the jobs that can't be replaced are hairdresser and publican.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 20-Mar-17 10:09:05

Coding will be automated soon too

A lot of it wont be ... the^^ main skill is often in knowing what to write (I write scientific software)

At DD's girls' GS, afaik not too many want to do MFL degrees, but quite a lot of her STEM-y classmates are doing one or two languages. Obviously this is less likely to happen if they're limited to 3 subjects but many of her friends do 4 or even 5 (eg 2 maths, physics and 2 MFL for one who will be studying maths)

The numbers going into MFL degrees are probably in line with career opportunities. In those terms, its probably history and eng. lit which have disproportionately large numbers rather than STEM - obviously many of those will go into careers with nonspecific graduate entry.

Ontopofthesunset Mon 20-Mar-17 10:30:55

I just get annoyed with the idea that MFL is any less useful than any other arts degree. It's the higher order thinking skills that are really useful and in MFL you get to understand other languages too. Some people will use their languages as foreign correspondents and diplomats and teachers and some won't. There seems to be an alarmingly reductive approach to education these days. Not everyone can work in a STEM job. In fact the arts sector in the UK is particularly vibrant. What are all those STEM workers going to watch in the evening on TV if no one is writing or performing or directing or producing? What are they going to listen to if no one is making and promoting music? Where are they going to get their news from if no one is reporting anything? What clothes are they going to wear if no one is designing or retailing? What are they going to read if no one is writing or publishing?

ErrolTheDragon Mon 20-Mar-17 10:39:06

I just get annoyed with the idea that MFL is any less useful than any other arts degree.

Yes, that is odd - it seems to me that they should be at least as valuable as e.g. english as a general skill type of degree, plus more skill- specific opportunities.

I guess there's a vicious cycle - many schools don't have enough good MFL teachers (plus the direness of the gcses up to now) so relatively few will choose to continue with it, so there isn't a pool of MFL graduates enough of whom want to go into teaching.

readthethread Mon 20-Mar-17 12:07:41

I wonder if many are put off MFL at A level because you are competing with many with a significant advantage
- bilingual
- parent fluent
- holiday home in France
- went to the French Lycee
etc etc

I did French A level. I was the only one in my class whose first language was English and didn't have a natural advantage. I bombed. Despite an easy A in 2 languages at GCSE. It is SO much harder. I'd never advise my dc to do languages past GCSE.

bojorojo Mon 20-Mar-17 12:34:32

I am thankful my DD had excellent teaching at school with lots of extra input from the teachers to make it interesting, especially at A level. I do believe that MFL requires learning by rote and that is what some pupils just will not do. English and History do not require that in the same way. DD was lucky enough to go with the school to Italy and France to study art, cooking and culture. This was optional but very important. I do undertand that she was fortunate.

I cannot think of a single friend of my DDs at school or university who would have done STEM subjects instead of languages, despite A*s in Sciences and Maths at GCSE. It is the way your brain works and what you feel confident about learning. Many people enjoyed History and English and had an A level in these subjects as well as MFL but felt that the additional skills languages provided were the way forward. The universities provide numerous options to study literature, culture, art etc in a foreign language so this is not so different from any other arts degree. Some degrees offer a lot of translation which some students prefer. MFL is just as valuable as other arts degrees. You are learning in your target languages though, so that is an extra skill. All the skills are transferable into many other sectors of work and there is now a grant of £25,000 for MFL graduates to train as teachers. Hopefully that and an improved curriculum will help.

The idea that MFL graduates need to work in area where a MFL is required possibly explains why so many pupils do not understand how transferrable the skills are. This is never explained to them. Any MFL grad has a world of opportunities. It is such an inward looking British thing not to educate ourselves in the cultures of others because we think it is not worthwhile. No other country thinks like that.

tovelitime Mon 20-Mar-17 12:48:06

I agree with you. My DC is at an outstanding state school where pretty much all the 6th form go to Russell Group uni's and about 20% to Oxford & Cambridge but the modern language provision is poor. There's a list on the leavers board as long as your arm of those going off to study Law, Medicine, Economics, engineering, English / History / Politics but languages are few and far between and as someone who did languages A level and regrets not studying it to degree level I think that it's a huge shame.

BackforGood Mon 20-Mar-17 15:03:30

Wouldn't "less than 5%", or "might be only 2 or 3" be proportional to the number of different degree options there are, though ? I'm not seeing the 'shock'.

toffee1000 Mon 20-Mar-17 15:15:32

As a linguist I tend to agree. The emphasis these days is STEM STEM STEM which is a bit tedious. I get it's very important but it's just not for everyone. I do not have a scientific mind. I did not find science easy.
As for the A Level leap, that happens in every subject. Especially Maths and Science. I got an A in GCSE Biology but an E at AS. Does that mean I would discourage my DC from doing science beyond GCSE? No. For what it's worth I got an A* at GCSE in both French and German and As in both at A-Level. I wasn't a native speaker or bilingual nor do we have a house in France neither are my parents fluent. In fact none of the rest of my family are that great at languages. A girl in my class had a French grandma but it made zero difference to her ability. The rest of the class were the same situation as me.
I also agree that pupils know what a language degree can lead to. Not just translation/teaching/interpreting. The skills can be applicable to a lot of things.

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