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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 13:51 GMT
Call for overseas education links
Students at a European exchange school in Holland
Students at a European exchange school in Holland
Every school in England is being encouraged to "twin" with a school overseas over the next five years.

They are being urged to try for a British Council award recognising international collaboration.

The moves are part of a government strategy aimed at building stronger international links among colleges and universities as well as schools.

This also highlights the contribution that students coming to the UK can make to the economy.

Schools can find partners abroad through the Global Gateway website, on which 30 countries are so far represented.

Raising international awareness is said to be a long-standing passion for the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke.

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement on Friday, he said he hoped that one result of having a greater international dimension to school life would be that more pupils would study foreign languages.


He said he was not surprised by a recent survey showing a third of teenagers were giving up on languages at the age of 14.

The government has been criticised for making such language study optional, preferring to focus on encouraging primary schools to do more.

At Barking Abbey School in Essex, French and German are offered at GCSE and A-level.

head teacher Mark Lloyd
There's no point in making students do something they don't want to do
Head teacher Mark Lloyd
There are specialist language rooms with overhead projectors, whiteboards, headphones, cassette-players and a video link to a school abroad.

But activities extend beyond the classroom. Each year most first year (Year 7) students either visit France for a day or go on a four-day stay in Germany.

Those in Year 9 go to a local language centre each year and language students in the lower sixth can do a week's work experience in Germany or France.

Part of the government's case in making languages optional was that the national curriculum's modern foreign languages was the requirement schools most often sought to have waived for disaffected students.

Barking Abbey says it has a good take-up of languages beyond the age of 14 because students recognise their importance.

The head teacher, Mark Lloyd, told BBC News: "If you make language learning just language learning for its own sake and it's dry and it's boring and they don't want to do it, then there's no point in making students do something they don't want to do."

Launching the international strategy on Monday, Mr Clarke said: Mr Clarke said: "Our vision is that the people of the UK should have the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to fulfil themselves, to live in and contribute effectively to a global society and to work in a competitive, global economy.

"It means, in short, putting the 'world' into the world class standards to which we aspire."

He said: "One cannot truly educate young people in this country without the international dimension being a very significant and real part of their learning experience."

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said: "The government should not have made modern languages voluntary for all young people in this age group. Increasing language learning in primary schools is not a substitute."

Inward investment

Mr Clarke also said the English education system had "a tremendous reputation" overseas.

"We have much to be proud of and much we can export to other countries developing and reforming their own education systems."

The strategy will also seek to maximise the contribution education, training and university research make to overseas trade and inward investment.

The government said that in 2001-02, UK education and training exports amounted to an estimated 10.3bn.

This summer it announced a 10-year "science and innovation investment framework" aimed at increasing public and private sector spending to make the UK "a key knowledge hub in the global economy".

This said total investment in research and development in the UK in 2002 was 1.86% of gross domestic product, compared with 2.2% in France, 2.51% in Germany and 2.67% in the USA.

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