|Hands up who hates the Coalition?|
Tomorrow marks a month since the Comprehensive Spending Review was published by the government setting out how it was going to reduce public spending. Over the last four weeks newspapers and think tanks have been picking the review apart to work out where the axe is going to fall. Sadly, it looks as if Osborne's axe is going to fall on the British Council Language Assistants program in England and Wales.
The Independent was the first to break the story a few days after the CSR. It named J.K. Rowling, Alistair Campbell and Rory Bremner as some of the Council's alumni, and said "[t]he tradition could now be in jeopardy after the British Council, which runs the programme, was forced to suspend next year's selection".
A week ago the Times Higher Education Supplement ran the story as well. It quoted Mark Williams, head of Modern Languages at Leeds University, who said it would "make life incredibly difficult" for current second-year students.
It's a totally misguided decision from the Government to shut this century-old programme down. The Times said it cost just £750000 to administer last year. In the context of the 80 billion pound savings the Government is trying to make, it's small change. It's not worth denying thousands of students this opportunity to save such a small amount of money in the scheme of things.
This suspension is making life difficult for current second-year students. They have to make decisions about next year now. How are they supposed to do that if they're not sure what the options are? At Bristol University, the students' plans have been thrown into disarray, and they have been told to make other plans in case the suspension is not lifted.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas declared it was "bad news for students and bad news for our image abroad". He's right, but he forgets that it was Labour who made languages optional after the age of 14 years, sparking a decline in the number of students taking GCSEs in them.
What this amounts to is another body blow to language learning in the UK. There is this petition going around at the moment; if you want to sign it please feel free.
Nick Clegg, you speak five languages. Surely you don't want to scrap this program? Please, s'il vous plait, por favor, bitte...