It’s that day of the year where TV stations wheel out precocious little sixteen year-olds who think they know it all to gloat about their achievements and predict their obviously stellar career path over the next decade.
Yup, it’s GCSE results day in the UK. And as I cringe watching the interviews, I can only hope I wasn’t as irritatingly opinionated, overwhelmingly positive and just plain naive as they are.
Ah, the ‘optimism’ of youth.
The thing which strikes me about these results – apart from the overwhelming urge to throw my phone at the screen when a teenager starts lecturing me about the real world – is the dramatic fall in students taking modern languages.
If these young tykes were as worldly-aware as they’d like to think, surely they’d realise that globalisation is the overwhelming economic trend of our time and they’d be well advised to prepare themselves by studying Spanish or Chinese for example. But fewer of them are, despite the wider range of options open to them in this area.
The quote that really leapt out at me was this: “Fewer students are doing modern foreign languages. There is definitely a need for something which reflects the level of interest and enjoyment to be had in the subject.” And one whipper snapper just told BBC News 24 that he didn’t need languages as he didn’t want to work for the European Parlaiment! Like that’s the only place you’ll need them…
Surely the more important reason is not just fun, or a job in Brussels, but cultural awareness and preparation for the career they’ll be following in a few years time? I think it’s high time schools got more vocational in how they choose and even market subjects to students in the context of what’s going on in the world.
Or am I actually the naive one in thinking that, with business and the Internet overwhelmingly dominated by English, the need for understanding of other countries and the ability to communicate in other languages is not redundant?
Or am I just a patronising, bitter ex-modern languages student who is now being told he has a niche and less valuable degree than he thought?