All children should learn foreign languages, say peers
- 22 March 2012
- From the section Education & Family
All children should learn a foreign language at primary and secondary school, a House of Lords committee has said.
The UK's attitude to languages has prevented its students from studying in Europe, according to the House of Lords' EU committee.
It says the UK has been popular with EU students keen to improve their English, but it is now facing competition.
Education Secretary Michael Gove also favours language learning from five.
A new league table measure for England is expected to lead to more teenagers studying languages.
Known as the English Baccalaureate, it is given to pupils who get good GCSEs in five key subjects including a language.
Languages are not compulsory in English and Welsh secondary schools beyond the age of 14, although a review of the curriculum is under way in England.
The Lords' committee says too few British students are taking part in schemes designed to encourage movement among students in the EU and blames "monoglot" (speaking just one language) attitudes.
Students in France, Germany and Spain were three times as likely as those in Britain to take part in an EU programme called Erasmus, where students can study or work abroad as part of their degree, the committee said.
Its inquiry follows a report from the European Commission last September which said that European universities had "under-exploited potential" to contribute to Europe's prosperity and society.
The Lords call on the EU to allocate more funds to research and education to help in the region's long-term economic recovery.
Committee chairman Baroness Young of Hornsey said: "The government must place higher education at the heart of their growth agenda in order to maintain and contribute to the economic and social wealth of the UK and Europe as a whole.
"In the immediate few months, this will require the government to negotiate ambitiously to allocate a greater proportion of the long-term EU budget to research, innovation and education."
The committee reject a call from the European Commission to bring in a new ranking system for universities.
And they call on the government to "remain vigilant" about attracting students from overseas, particularly following the increase in tuition fees.
From the autumn, fees at England's universities will be allowed to rise up to a maximum of £9,000 a year, although they are covered by student loans which do not have to be paid back until graduates are earning £21,000 a year.
Fees are also rising in other parts of the UK, although students from Northern Ireland who stay there to study will not be affected and those from Wales will be subsidised wherever they study in the UK. Students in Scotland will continue to pay no fees.
The UK is facing tougher competition for students from the EU and further afield the report says, particularly as some universities in mainland Europe are teaching courses in English and have lower fees.
EU students who go to Scottish universities do not have to pay fees.