BREXIT and education

Apart from the issues regarding students in higher education recruited from the EU and the matter of research funding for our universities, there are also the matter of recruiting teachers and of whether our exit should affect the school curriculum to consider after today’s speech by the Prime Minister.

If we are to become a world-class trading nation, do we need to up our game over the teaching of languages? If so, does the balance between European languages and say Mandarin need to alter? Despite the former administration’s apparent love for the Chinese language, progress has been patchy, with some schools embracing the teaching of Mandarin and others not being so interested.

With most of South America, apart from Brazil, speaking a form of Spanish, should we increase the teaching of that language and reduce say, German. Should Russian return to the group of languages more widely taught in schools? Then there are the languages of the Indian Sub-continent and of anglophile Africa. Do we need to increase speakers of those tongues or rely upon them learning English to allow us to export to them?

Perhaps more importantly do we need to take another look at the EBacc? The creative arts, design and technology and even business studies have seemingly ranked way down the DfE’s list of concerns ever since Mr Gove entered Sanctuary Buildings. Do we need to reassess the importance of certain subjects? Music, in all its forms, has been a key export industry. Do we need to give it a boost in schools or just rely on television talent shows to increase interest in the subject and a desire to practice it in public? If manufacturing is going to be important, should the government pay more attention to design and technology and assess how the subject can be staffed in our schools. In TeachVac we have seen few advertisements for vacancies in either music or design and technology compared with many other subjects both at the end of 2016 and in the first fortnight of 2017. This may suggest schools are not investing in the teaching of these subjects at present.

STEM subjects as a whole are also important, especially where they help develop new technologies. However, developing a spirit of entrepreneurship in our schools may be equally important. In a post some time ago, I noted that more innovators came from independent schools than from state schools. Clearly, post BREXIT, we need a generation of exporters educated in all our schools and this might mean re-evaluating the staffing of business studies. At present, this a subject the DfE largely ignores, despite the past two years of TeachVac data showing how under-staffed it is becoming.

Finally, what happens if we cannot maintain a common travel area with the Irish republic? Although not as great a source of teachers as some would imagine, teachers from Ireland do help swell the ranks of the teaching profession in times of shortage. Will they need visas, along with their Spanish and other EU compatriots, in a few years’ time? On that front, schools must be wondering when the Migration Advisory Committee will report on the tier 2 visa rules for 2017-18.





4 thoughts on “BREXIT and education

  1. There a three global languages: English; Spanish; Mandarin. We have a built-in advantage for the first although native English speakers liaising with foreign business people need to know they should avoid colloquialisms and jargon such as ‘outside the box’, ‘raining cats and dogs’. There perhaps need to be education at further/higher level, maybe within business/management studies about ‘global English’. Mandarin is only spoken in China which is but one part of the world, albeit very important. Spanish, on the other hand, gives access to South America, USA (nearly half of USA speaks Spanish and there may come a time when first-language Spanish speakers outnumber first-language English speakers) as well as Spain.

    At the moment, English and French are the two ‘chief vehicular languages’ in the EU (study done in 2002 The same study (note: written before the accession of Poland and other Eastern European countries into EU) said, ‘English is not a mandatory supranational language. But there is a tendency to make it so.’ The study concludes the status of English as a supranational language ‘is not so much its utilitarian function as the prestige attached to it and the social role attributed to it.’

    How much this will change, if at all, when the UK exits the EU is unclear. The EU (particularly France I would guess) may not relish English having high status post-Brexit given the problems that Brexit is going to cause the EU. But the rest of the world may have different ideas.

    The high status of English globally may be one reason why native English speakers in the UK are notoriously bad at learning another language. Nevertheless, it is good manners to make an effort to speak the language of the country with which you’re trying to do business. But under-investment in language education and training foreign language specialists mean we’re not in a particularly good situation. Given the prevalence of Spanish as a global language, perhaps it’s time for Spanish to overtake French/German as the first foreign language learnt. It has the advantage of using mostly the same alphabet as English and is a phonetically regular language.

    • Janet,

      Thanks for your, as ever, perceptive comments. We do need to know what schools are asking for in term sof the different languages. we have some of the data in TeachVac and can collect the rest for a relatively small sum if anyone is interested in funding the data collection. We are already doing this type of analysis for science and design & technology by delving behind the headline vacancy titles.

      John Howson

  2. The UK obsession, particularly in England, with test results, can have negative effects. If schools are judged on results, then shallow teaching to the test can result. Other important subjects and skills can be neglected.
    The answer is perhaps to move to graduation at 18 via multiple routes. Exams at 16 could be included but their main purpose should be to decide post-16 progression and not judging schools.

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