The importance of languages in a post-Brexit world

The importance of languages in a post-Brexit world. With a post-Brexit future looming ever-closer, how the UK speaks to the world is crucial for what comes next. Learning new languages will be more necessary than ever once we leave the EU, especially when it comes to education and recruitment. Sean Harford, National Director of Ofsted, believes that studying modern foreign languages is an essential part of a broad, balanced curriculum.1 European language skills may also increase in demand as British companies who want to do business in Europe might not be able to employ EU candidates as easily as before.

As it stands, there has been a fall in the number of pupils studying modern foreign languages (MFL), a trend that was started when the Government removed the compulsion for students to study them up until the age of 16. By taking away this requirement, the benefits were lost too.

These benefits included:

A broad and balanced curriculum

Learning a new language has been proven to improve cognitive ability and brain development at any age.2 By taking away the requirement to study languages, the opportunity for growth and personal development is also taken away. A post-Brexit world needs more, not less language skills.

‘Studying languages literally makes you smarter!’ – Science.

Effective communication skills

It may sound obvious, but learning how to speak another language actually benefits the person learning the language in terms of their confidence, ability to interact with others, and a newfound appreciation of their native tongue. The nuances of language are complex and broad, and learning how to speak several will naturally improve several processes, including interpersonal communication.

Understanding of global citizenship

In a post-Brexit world, the importance of tolerance and understanding will be needed more than ever. Languages help pupils understand what it means to be a global citizen, and in today’s world, celebrating differences whilst highlighting everything we have in common will be crucial.

All of these benefits are being lauded by Ofsted, who expect schools to give greater opportunities to all children in terms of studying a broad range of subjects – but especially ones that include MFL. The knowledge, skills and practical application of these classes will help to broaden horizons and open doors into other areas of opportunity, setting pupils up for life. Their new inspection framework seeks to ensure these measures are being taken seriously.

By ensuring schools are focusing their efforts in providing and encouraging languages (regardless of a pupil’s personal circumstance or background), they are following the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc), which the Department for Education wants to utilise to increase the number of pupils studying MFL. Their aim is to reach 90% by 2025, which Ofsted is supporting through their inspectors, all of who highlight this national ambition to heads and request a breakdown of their contribution.3

A study released by the British Council identified the languages the UK needs the most post-Brexit. These are Spanish, Mandarin, Chinese, French, Arabic and German.4 International awareness and the ability to connect with people globally will become a huge focus if we’re to stay connected to the world, and each other.

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References: 1. Gov.UK, Ofsted blog. Source link: https://educationinspection.blog.gov.uk/2019/02/26/ofsteds-subject-curriculum-groups/ 2. Medical Express, language study. Source link: https://m.medicalxpress.com/news/2011-10-languages-smarter.html

3. Gov.UK. English Baccalaureate guidance. Source link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/english-baccalaureate-ebacc/english-baccalaureate-ebacc

4. Britishcouncil.org. The top languages the UK needs most post-Brexit. Source link: https://www.britishcouncil.org/contact/press/top-languages-uk-needs-most-post-brexit

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