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The limitations of bricolage: Ofsted’s Curriculum Research Review for Languages

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 April 2022

JESHOOTS-com / Pixabay

Norbert Pachler and Elspeth Broady.

During 2021 and 2022, OFSTED has published a number of curriculum research reviews seemingly with the aim of identifying factors contributing to high quality school curricula and how subjects can best be taught with the help of research findings.

Whilst attempts to leverage research findings to underpin, inform and improve subject pedagogy must be viewed as laudable and desirable, the curriculum research reviews raise a number of important questions and issues, certainly if the recent furore over the maths review is anything to go by (see e.g. Schools Week but see also the journal Routes for a discussion of the review for geography). While controversy is seemingly more intense in some subjects than others, common problematic features emerge from the reviews in general: (more…)

Breaking down barriers: why do we classify some languages as ‘community’ and others as ‘modern’?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 December 2021

It is claimed that, on average, one in five of school-aged children in Britain have a first language other than English (The Guardian). These languages are often labelled as ‘community languages’ with many of them identified as the ‘languages for the future’ (British Council) in terms of supply and demand.For instance, the top ten ‘languages for the future’ are Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian, all of which are spoken in communities in Britain. Yet, as the Guardian article and numerous reports point out, support for the community languages in the UK education system, from early years to further and higher education, is seriously lacking.

Part of the problem is the labelling. Languages that are part of the school and university curriculum are usually called ‘modern languages’, ‘foreign languages’, or ‘modern foreign languages’. Some of the community languages (eg Italian, Mandarin Chinese) are part of the school curriculum, but most are not. The classification of which language is a modern language for schools, and which is a community language seems somewhat arbitrary and largely a result of the history of language teaching in this country. It is also connected to Britain’s (more…)