World languages such as French, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Latin and Greek will soon be a mandatory part of the curriculum beginning at age seven in England.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, hopes the move will make pupils better-equipped to compete in a global economy. Currently about one in ten state primary schools (elementary schools) offers no language lessons at all and a further 20 percent only offer it to some year groups, according to the most recent official figures.
Earlier this year, a report found that countries with high-performing education systems begin teaching foreign languages at a much younger age than England.
New Zealand and Singapore, for example, teach languages at age six, and Finland at age nine. In Hong Kong, English is compulsory from the start of primary school.
Start Them Young!
As a world language teacher, I know that the earlier, the better, as far as teaching another language. Young children can pick up sounds and words really quickly, and they are generally uninhibited when it comes to practicing their new-found skills in class. Once those same kids become pre-teens and teens, they tend to feel awkward and embarrassed to speak out in front of their peers.
Numerous research studies have shown that learning a second or third language is enormously beneficial in other areas too, leading to better test scores and maturity of thinking.
New Primary National Curriculum
The move to make languages a requirement from age seven will form part of a new Primary National Curriculum, taking effect in England in September, 2014.
This proposed new curriculum will also make standards for English, math, and science much more demanding.
The specifics of the English and math standards strongly resemble the language of the Common Core State Standards, which have currently been adopted by 45 states and three territories in the United States. Probably not a coincidence – but not necessarily a good idea. There has been quite a bit of opposition to the idea of common core standards in the U.S.
Teaching Evolution To Elementary School Students
Interestingly, the standards in science include this one: There will be a greater focus on the acquisition of scientific knowledge with new content on the solar system, speed and evolution.
We won’t expect to see any reference to evolution on State Standards in the United States anytime soon.
What do you think? Is it a good idea for children to study a second language beginning at age seven?
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