SDLP Education Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan has called for a strategy to enable more young people to learn languages at school.
Mr McCrossan said there was clear evidence language subjects were on the decline in post-primary schools across the North, with less students choosing to study languages at GCSE, AS and A Level.
The West Tyrone MLA is proposing the North learn from the language model in Scotland that sees students begin to learn languages when they start primary school.
Mr McCrossan has also written to the Education Minister to raise his concerns around the removal of oral language exams from GCSE to A2 level.
The West Tyrone MLA said:
“We need a plan to reverse the trend that is seeing fewer and fewer children opting to learn languages at school. The benefits of learning a new language are clear, research shows there are cognitive benefits from learning additional languages at a young age and there is also evidence that speaking two languages from a young age leads to higher educational achievement. Language skills are also key to developing our economy. If we want expert international companies to invest here we need to be able to provide them with a skilled workforce and there is a real danger the North is being left behind in this regard.
“I believe we should be looking at adopting the Scottish model which sees children beginning to learn other languages when they begin primary school. The younger they begin to develop these skills the easier it will be for them to progress and become fluent in their chosen language. The North is currently the only part of the UK with no strategy or resources dedicated to promote languages in primary schools and this needs to change.
“My office has been inundated with concerns from teachers and academics after the Education Minister accepted CCEA’s recommendation to drop oral examinations from the language syllabus. I have pressed this point with the Minister and they have promised to look again at this issue. It’s hard to fathom the logic around having children learning a language in written form but not developing their skills to actually speak it.
“I am urging Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to work with CCEA to find a solution to these problems before it’s too late. The current system is not fit for purpose and doesn't serve anyone well. With our world always getting smaller language skills are more important than ever and it’s crucial that languages form a key part of our school curriculum.“