The UK government has decided to teach foreign languages at school to students from the age of seven. Planned national curriculum reforms also encourage science learning through study of nature. All children are to be taught a foreign language which could include Mandarin, Latin or Greek from the age of seven under reforms to the British national curriculum unveiled by the education secretary, Michael Gove. Children will be encouraged to learn science by studying nature, and schools will be expected to place less emphasis on teaching scientific methods.
The introduction of compulsory foreign language teaching in primary schools is intended to reverse the dramatic decline in takeup at GCSE. Pupils will need to be able to speak in sentences, with the appropriate pronunciation, and express simple ideas clearly in another language.
They will be expected to develop an understanding of the basic grammar of the language, and be acquainted with songs and poetry. Ministers say that teaching should focus on making “substantial progress” in one language. UK’s shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, said the government was “absolutely right” to make the learning of foreign languages compulsory from the age of seven.
The science curriculum is expected to emphasise using the natural habitat around schools — for example, learning biology by studying the growth and development of tree. There will be less focus on doing experiments. Instead, children will be taught to observe their surroundings and learn how scientists have classified the natural world. The curriculum reforms will result in more demanding lessons, and represent a return to the basics of each subject.
In maths, the teaching of statistics at primary school will be slimmed down to make way for more mental arithmetic.
Children will be expected to do multiplication and division with large numbers without the use of pen and paper. Pupils in the final year of primary school will be introduced to algebra.
In English, the curriculum will emphasise the importance of grammar. For the first time, the government will set a list of words that all children must learn how to spell. These will include ‘bruise’, ‘destroy’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘tyrant’.
Pupils will be expected to learn poems by heart and recite them in public. They will also be taught how to debate.
The new English curriculum will say that by the end of year 4, children should listening to and discussing a wide range of fiction and nonfiction. There is also greater stress on learning to read through phonics.
The new programmes of study are to be introduced in schools in September 2014.