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Why don't boys see languages as important?

By Sue Smith


This is a very interesting article from The Independent but I feel it fails to identify what some of the main issues are.

The article explains that boys are much less likely than girls to choose to study a modern foreign language at GCSE level. Many educationalists are trying to consider ways to address this imbalance.

Perhaps the problem lies at a higher level of education, namely with university entrance. Many universities in the UK and other places require a student to specialise and take only three A-levels. If you put aside subjects where there are obvious preprerequisites such as Medicine, most university choices put an emphasis on grades rather than on subjects. It is easy for a student to feel they are "good at " Maths and Science subjects or that there is a lot of overlap between say Maths and Physics.

If universities rewarded students who showed more diversity in their subject choices then studying a language might be seen as a better choice. However, while the emphasis remains on grades alone many students feel it is more difficult to achieve a high grade in a foreign language.

Given that there is still some gender bias among university program choices, especially where boys are concerned and when it comes to more science or maths focused courses, it is little wonder that boys choose not to pursue a language once they start to pick a study pathway for their future.

Studying another language is a useful skill and it can open up a completely different world to students. If the British government really wants to encourage it, they should look at some of the problems which have led to this situation.

Photo / Image Credit 

"A group of Nelson Boys College Year 10 Enrichment Class students visited American Embassy Wellington, New Zealand on Wednesday, March 15, 2017." by US Embassy under licensed by (Public Domain Mark 1.0)


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