Born Global: Rethinking Language Policy for 21st Century Britain
A new policy research project into the extent and nature of language needs in the labour market and the implications for language education from school to higher education.
As a key project in the British Academy’s Language Programme, Born Global has been established to develop a deeper understanding of how language is used in the workplace for different purposes, by employees of different levels of skill and accountability. Following years of declining capability in language competence in education and recurrent reports of high levels of employer demand for language skills, Born Global will elicit new knowledge about the language needs for employment to inform government language policy development, the current national curriculum review for England and future developments in Higher Education language curricula and assessment.
Language teaching and learning has been a long-term battle ground for policy-makers, educationalists, employers, academics, schools and universities. Despite a number of policy initiatives over the last 25 years made by successive governments, languages capability remains in crisis. Although surveys produced by the CBI have indicated that 70% of employers value foreign language skills, particularly for their use in building relationships with clients, customers and suppliers, they also report recurrent dissatisfaction with graduate language skills and an increasing demand for non-traditional languages such as Mandarin and Cantonese.
The evidence of weakness in language teaching and curricula at every level – from school to undergraduate degrees, and in life-long learning programmes – has indicated the urgent need to refine our understanding of employers’ needs and requirements in order to fix the supply chain of language learning and improve economic performance.
Born Global thus aims to provide new knowledge, fresh analysis and thoughtful leadership to inform the curriculum and assessment debate in modern languages, particularly during this crucial period of policy development and implementation. It will seek evidence to prove that language capability improves adult employment prospects, thus convincing young people to pursue languages at school and university and address the dramatic and continuing trend away from specialist language study in Higher Education. It will also explore employers’ expectations of language competence and investigate the reasons for their dissatisfaction with the current language capabilities.
The project will draw on the expertise of a high level Steering Group convened by the British Academy and an Advisory Board, including representatives from the CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, the Employer and Education Task Force, and Fellows of the British Academy. The Steering Group will be chaired by Richard Hardie, non-executive Chair of UBS Ltd.
Born Global will provide a new paradigm for evidence-based policy development by engaging with key stakeholders from education and employment in a radical rethinking of languages education for the 21st century.
The research for this study will use mixed-mode methodology and will include quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Furthermore, it will involve direct engagement with a range of research partners and stakeholders such as employers, schools and universities, government and policy makers in a longitudinal study of language use and policy development in education and employment.
The research will be structured in three phases and will take place from September 2013 to July 2015. An interim report will be published in May 2014.
The final report will be published in July 2015 by the British Academy and will be relevant to the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Higher Education Academy, as well as to a range of other stakeholder groups from education, public services and employer networks.