The Department for Education is currently running two consultations that may have a great impact on Japanese language education in the UK, especially in England.
Key Stage 4 consultation
The Department for Education is considering replacing the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) with a completely new qualification, the English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) in England for Key Stage 4 (Year 10 – Year 11 in secondary schools, age 14-16). They are holding a public consultation regarding this, with a deadline of December 10th 2012. One of the questions included in the consultation is, “Should all languages in which there is currently a GCSE be included in our competition?” There are currently 24 languages at GCSE level, including Japanese. It is possible that based on the results of this consultation, the GCSE level exam in Japanese (which has over a thousand entrants each year) will be discontinued.
Key Stage 2 consultation
This consultation is about the proposal to make foreign languages a statutory subject in primary schools from September 2014. The order suggests a requirement for primary schools to teach one or more of French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish or a classical language (Latin or Ancient Greek) to pupils at Key Stage 2.
The Japan Foundation London believe that in today’s changing, increasingly globalized world it is very important to nurture young people’s ability to live together with people with different cultures who speak different languages. Language education is not simply about studying words and phrases; it also builds students’ intercultural understanding and teaches them to respect diversity. Narrowing the choice of languages at school level would not only deprive school studnets of the chance to learn about a wide range of languages and culture while they are at an impressionable age; it might also rob them of their natural enthusiasm to try to understand other cultures. With this in mind, we can say that Japanese language education greatly contributes to the UK’s linguistic and cultural diversity.
At the Japan Foundation, London, one of the ways we encourage mutual understanding between Japan and the UK is by promoting Japanese language education. As an organization dedicated to supporting Japanese language teaching, we are therefore submitting our opinion to the Department of Education’s consultation. Firstly, we think that Japanese should be included in the new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs) if they replace the current GCSEs. Secondly, although we welcome the news that languages will be taught at primary level, we are strongly against any restrictive list that limits which languages may be taught.
Both of these consultation aims to reach a wide range of respondents, not only people involved in primary and secondary education, but also higher education institutions, the private sector, exam awarding organisations as well as the general public. Therefore we would like to encourage everyone who is interested in Japanese language education, Japanese studies, Japan/UK cultural exchange, Japan/UK related businesses and all other Japan-UK related organisations to respond to them with your support for the continuation of Japanese language education in secondary school, including Japanese language qualifications.
To see further information about this and to download the response forms, please click here for the Key Stage 4 consultation (deadline December 10th 2012) and click here for the Key Stage 2 consultation (deadline December 16th 2012). Please feel free to respond to the questions related to language education as well as any others you are interested in.