Teaching primary children two languages in addition to their mother tongue will be examined as the topic of debate in the Scottish Parliament today (Friday 10 May) as part of an inquiry by the European and External Relations Committee. Teachers, policy makers and European organisations are coming together to discuss the findings so far of the Committee’s languages inquiry and look together at the issues before the Committee publishes its report.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Committee Convener Christina McKelvie MSP explained:
“The Scottish Government has recommended that children should start to learn a second language from Primary 1 and a third language no later than Primary 5. Our Committee has been looking at this policy aim, the capacity within the curriculum for this, and the role of languages in supporting the economy.”
The conference will hear from and be able to question the Director General for Education, Training, Culture and Youth at the European Commission, Mr Jan Truszczyński and Executive Director of the European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe, Mr Waldemar Martyniuk and the Scottish Government’s Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages, Dr Alasdair Allan MSP.
Christina McKelvie MSP continued:
“Understanding another language is such an important skill and our Committee has welcomed the Government’s ambitions on this front. Our job as a Committee of the Scottish Parliament is to look at whether we think the proposals meet the aim of positively supporting increased language teaching in primary schools.
“We have already gathered so much information from parents, pupils and teachers within schools and from those who have come to give evidence. Clear themes have developed and today’s conference allows us to explore these in depth, with a wide range of stakeholders. It will be invaluable to Committee members as we begin to draw our conclusions ahead of the report publishing towards the end of June.”
Breakout sessions within the conference will examine the key themes of the evidence the Committee has gathered to date from visiting schools and hearing from witnesses:
Committee Convener Christina McKelvie MSP will close the conference and outline the next steps for the Committee.
Photographs of the event will be available free of charge from the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Government proposes to enable all young people to learn 2 languages (as well as their mother tongue) whilst at primary school. This follows the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Languages Working Group report, ‘Language Learning in Scotland: A 1 + 2 Approach’ (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/05/3670). The Working Group recommended that children should learn a second language from Primary 1 and that learning of a third language should start no later than Primary 5.
A Scottish Government chamber debate was held in the Parliament on 24 May 2012 where support for the concept was recorded although concerns were noted regarding possible barriers including resources issues, skills deficits and cultural attitudes.