Poor pay puts off language teachers

September 25, 1998

The future of foreign languages in schools is in doubt because of a shortage of graduate teachers, according to a national report to be published soon.

Only French is still attracting graduates into teaching, according to the Nuffield Foundation inquiry on United Kingdom capability in languages.

Richard Towell, of Salford University, writes that "conversation with many final-year students leads me to believe that they view teaching as a low-paid, second-class career with little creative freedom and a great deal of hassle from ill-disciplined children."

Students are also put off because university departments can only train would-be teachers in languages available in partner schools.

"If a graduate in German and Spanish wishes to be trained to become a teacher of those languages, then very few, if any, university departments will have a link with a school offering those languages. At best, the graduate is likely to be able to teach one of those languages, and will then be asked if he or she could also teach some French," he writes in a chapter on higher education.

A further fear is that tuition fees may drive students away from four-year courses, the report adds. "While future doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons and architects may believe that their future income will be sufficient to permit the repayment of a Pounds 20,000 debt, there must be doubt as to whether language students will," it says.

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