Securing the future of A level foreign language qualifications

Girls looking at stone carvings

As our A level and GCSE qualifications undergo significant change, there has understandably been much public attention on the future of those foreign language qualifications studied by smaller numbers of students.

While these qualifications have a relatively small number of registrations, they are often the home language of many UK communities and, in an era of globalisation, are important.

As well as Spanish, German and French, which are studied widely across England, Pearson currently offers GCSEs and A levels in Arabic, Modern Greek, Japanese and Urdu, all of which historically have smaller cohort numbers.  We have previously confirmed that we will continue to offer GCSEs in these subjects under the new system, from September 2017.

We believe in the importance of these qualifications but, in the context of significant change in qualifications, there are difficult issues to work through and debates to be had. As we designed new specifications for A levels in these four languages, we had concerns that the small entry numbers, combined with the new content and assessment requirements for modern languages as set out by the Department for Education, would make it difficult to continue to create valid and reliable assessments. However, both Pearson and the DfE are committed to securing the future of these A level subject in two years’ time, so we have been working together on a new set of content requirements to mitigate this risk and allow us to feel confident in their quality and credibility.

Not all of our competitors have taken the same view, and as a result of some other important languages being 'dropped', we're going to work with the DfE to secure the future of A level and GCSE qualifications in Gujarati, Portuguese, Turkish and GCSE Biblical Hebrew.  Why would a commercial education company do that?  The answer is that as well as helping individuals make progress in their lives, education has the potential to foster inclusion and diversity, helping to make society more cohesive.  All parties - the government, the regulator and the exam boards - should work together in the interests of students, but also the communities in which we all live.