HC Deb 06 February 1979 vol 962 cc198-200
16. Mr. Arnold

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied with the extent and quantity of language tuition in schools.

Miss Margaret Jackson

The Green Paper "Education in Schools" drew attention to the key importance of language skills. My Department's subsequent circular 14/77 on authorities' curricula arrangements invited them to indicate their policies to promote the development of English and modern languages in schools. When the results of this review are available these issues will be the subject of further consultations.

Mr. Arnold

Is the hon. Lady satisfied with the scope and extent of the proposals that have been put forward by the European Commission for the development of a Community programme? Is not the Commission's programme somewhat timid? Could not a great deal more be done by way of developing teacher exchanges, a programme of assistantes and similar methods?

Miss Jackson

The European programme makes a useful contribution. I accept the hon. Gentleman's argument that we would not wish to rest only on what is being proposed by the Commission. We intend to examine our own proposals.

Mr. Newens

Has consideration been given at any stage to the experimental introduction of the teaching of Esperanto into certain schools? Is she aware that, where that has been taught, it has greatly increased the keenness of pupils to learn other languages as they find that they can achieve success in languages?

Miss Jackson

Some authorities have tried that experiment. I think that my hon. Friend will recognise that it is for authorities rather than my Department to undertake experiments in curricula development.

Dr. Boyson

Is the Under-Secretary aware that Her Majesty's inspectorate's report on modern languages in secondary schools states that the results are in no way commensurate with the physical and human resources involved? Is she aware that only one in 10 pupils starting languages in our secondary schools achieve O-level or CSE grade 1 passes? As we have entered the Common Market, is not that bad?

Miss Jackson

It is bad whether or not it has anything to do with the Common Market. We recognise the defects of modern language teaching in our schools, as we all must. We must try to correct the defects.

Mr. Hardy

Does my hon. Friend agree that the schools are more successful in equipping their pupils with skills in language and other necessary activities than ever before? Although it is unfashionable to express that view and although that is not the view purveyed by Opposition Members or the media, does she agree that our schools are achieving a great deal more than that for which they are given credit?

Miss Jackson

My hon. Friend is correct. Better opportunities are being offered to more children than ever before. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that the opportunities and the successes that they bring are still not as great as we would wish.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Is the Minister aware of the family learning system that is being pioneered by the Institute of European Education at St. Martin's training college, Lancaster, which can make a valuable contribution to language learning? Will she encourage its extension to other parts?

Miss Jackson

We are aware of the project, which we find interesting. We wish to study it to ascertain whether it may usefully be extended as the hon. Lady suggests.