THERE will be bemusement in some quarters that the European Union, via the House of Lords, is imploring the teaching of foreign languages to be made compulsory in primary and secondary schools, and ironically at a time when so many pupils have an imprecise grasp of English and other key skills.
That said, the diminution of language learning has become a source of national embarrassment and one which Education Secretary Michael Gove, to his credit, hopes to reverse. Britons should not have to depend on the willingness of young people in other countries to learn, and embrace, English in order to prosper in the global market place – ignorance is unlikely to secure many lucrative business deals.
Yet, while there should be no place in the political process for EU threats, the issue of languages does need to be prioritised, both in terms of finding time on the timetable and the recruitment of inspirational teachers.
But another issue also needs be reconciled. What languages should be taught? In the past, French enjoyed preferential status – but it could be argued that Spanish, or even Mandarin, might be more useful in a global economy.