In the two years since education officials in England made foreign language a voluntary subject, fewer than a third of the country’s public schools require students to take language courses, and some 60 percent of students have chosen not to do so when given the option, says a report.
A recent survey by the Center for Information on Language Teaching found that just 30 percent of public schools still require students to take a foreign language, compared with 71 percent two years ago when the Department for Education and Skills first relaxed the requirements.
Independent schools have not followed the trend, with 97 percent still mandating a foreign language.
The study, based on responses from 800 of England’s 3,000 government schools, estimates that nearly 300,000 fewer secondary students are studying foreign languages than just a few years ago.
German and French courses have lost the most students, according to the report, though more schools are offering Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.
Coverage of cultural understanding and international issues in education is supported in part by the Atlantic Philanthropies.
A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2005 edition of Education Week