Plans Afoot To Make Foreign Language Mandatory

Melissa Edwards, Senior Reporter | 6 Opinions
Published: June 15, 2017 2:53 pm AST
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The Ministry of Education and Culture has plans of making at least one foreign language subject compulsory, in the next five years.

Hon. Myron Walwyn, Minister of Education, on Tuesday, June 13 in the House of Assembly, said that in the first term of the new academic year 2017, they will be piloting two foreign languages---Mandarin at the early childhood level, in Kindergarten to Grade 2, and French at the secondary level, in Grades 7 to 9.

Plans are also being made to have Spanish taught at all grade levels, from Kindergarten through to Grade 12. Currently, Spanish is being offered from Grades 3 to 12.

"The ultimate goal in this process is to make at least one foreign language a compulsory core subject, and a stipulation for meeting secondary school graduation requirements, in the next five years," Hon. Walwyn said.

Mandarin and French will be piloted with a view to having them also available at all Grade levels eventually.

"Our decision to add Mandarin to the current subject offerings is based on documented research, which states that approximately one fifth of the world’s population speaks Mandarin, most of whom acquired the language for purposes of trade, investment, employment and education," Hon. Walwyn said.

The schools identified to participate in the pilot programme are Enid Scatliffe Pre-Primary; Alexandrina Maduro Primary; Joyce Samuels Primary; Enis Adams Primary, Ebenezer Thomas Primary; and Bregado Flax Educational Centre, Primary Division. Additionally, all students and interested teachers will have an opportunity to participate in extra-curricular Mandarin language learning activities via Foreign Language Clubs at the primary and secondary levels.

"Madame Speaker, French will be introduced at Grades 7 – 9, beginning with Grade 7 in September 2017. The other grades will be added in successive years. Noteworthy, is that French is widely taught in most Caribbean schools and is a popular choice for a second language in many Spanish speaking territories," he explained.

The Minister expressed that the introduction of French as an alternative to Spanish at Grade 7 – 9 will hopefully increase the number of students who pursue foreign language studies at the CSEC and CAPE levels.

"In addition, with plans by the CXC to introduce Mandarin to their foreign language list, it will also provide another opportunity for our students."

The Ministry will be recruiting native speakers of the language for the initial introduction of the subject to the school system.

He said that the contractual agreements will ensure that they will also train local teachers in the use of the language and thus ensure the development and continuity of the programme in the education system.

The Ministry has also forged a relationship with the Chinese Counsellor responsible for Education in the Chinese UK Embassy.

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