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Language tuition could add £21bn to the UK economy

September 10th, 2009 by Emily

The National Centre for Languages (Cilt) has spoken out to urge the government to put language tuition at the top of the agenda.

According to Cilt, French, German and other foreign languages need to be treated as strategically significant subjects. Cilt chief executive Kathryn Board told the BBC News today: "English is one of the great global languages but it will only take us so far. Our engagement with the non-English speaking world will remain superficial and one-sided unless we develop our capacity in other languages."

Recent research from Cardiff Business School seems to support Cilt's view. According to CBS, prioritising language tuition could add £21bn to the UK economy. In addition, export businesses that use language skills could boost their sales by up to 45%.

The number of pupils taking GCSE French and GCSE German has fallen by 45% and 46% respectively since 1997, and whereas 71% of pupils sat a foreign language GCSE in 1997, the proportion had fallen last year to 44%. The trend seems to have followed through to university, where the share of UK students taking language degrees has fallen by 4% since 2002, despite an overall 4.5% increase in the overall number of students.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills responded to Cilt's concerns: "The government will make language teaching compulsory in primary schools from next year," she said, adding that the government was also rolling out a new scheme to encourage universities and schools to work together to increase language take-up. The government has also announced a review of modern language tuition.

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