“Latin is set to be returned to the school curriculum”

If this report is accurate it is really good news for Latin teaching. The worrying figures are of the extremely low numbers of Latin teachers being trained. This seems to be because of deliberate government policy in the past. If hoi en telei are beginning to see the light, then perhaps more centres than just Cambridge and London may be allowed to train Classics specialists. Have I not heard, for example, that Oxford used to have a Classics Faculty? As a Cambridge man I can’t be sure …

But to be serious, unless something drastic is done very quickly we shall not have enough teachers for a renewed demand in state schools – indeed, we don’t have enough as it is.

Perhaps as a temporary measure we can mobilise the equivalent of the Chinese barefoot doctors, people who have enough training to do the job, though lacking full qualifications.

Daily Telegraph

Latin is set to be returned to the school curriculum following an official review.

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor
Last Updated: 9:05AM GMT 27 Dec 2008

Ministers believe it is an “important subject” and may help school pupils to learn modern languages.

Less than 15 per cent of state schools teach Latin and the number of qualified teachers is falling.

However, the Department for Education is understood to be considering adding Latin to the new Languages diploma, which will run alongside GCSEs and A-levels from next year. Baroness Morgan, the schools minister, has indicated that the Government wishes to see Latin regain its status as an important language.

She said it was “an important subject and valuable for supporting pupils’ learning of modern languages”. She added that the Language Diploma Development Partnership was “considering the place of Latin”.

Well-placed sources said that the language was expected to be reinstated as an official curriculum language next year.

Baroness Morgan made the comments in response to calls from another Labour peer, Lord Faulkner of Worcester who said it helped students to learn other languages.

“Each year, 35 new Latin teachers are trained but over 60 are leaving the profession,” he said. “Isn’t it time that Latin was reclassified as an official curriculum language and was given the same encouragement as other languages?” Over the past 20 years, the teaching of Latin has rapidly declined in state schools and classicists have predicted that it could disappear altogether in the next decade.

In 1988, 16,023 students were entered for GCSE, with 53 per cent from state schools. However, since 2000 only about 10,000 pupils annually have entered for GCSE Latin, with only 37 per cent from the state sector.

Lady Morgan said that the number of younger children studying Latin had already risen sharply over the past decade following Government investment in computer software and other teaching tools.

There are only two teacher-training courses in Latin, at Cambridge University and King’s College London. Therefore, the number of Latin teachers is falling rapidly as staff retire.

Bob Lister, a lecturer in classics education at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC: “Unless someone at a senior level comes up with serious ways of supporting Latin I fear that within the next generation it will pretty much disappear.”

He added: “We don’t want to be seen to be dumbing down the classics but for an average school student who doesn’t start to learn Latin until they are 13, GCSE Latin is extremely hard work.”

Meanwhile, peers have also asked to be given access to Latin lessons in the House of Lords. Baroness O’Cathain, a Conservative peer, asked for Latin courses to be added a list of 10 modern languages on offer to peers.

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3 Responses

  1. I see that Boris Johnson, the new London Mayor wants Latin to be taught in all London schools. However I would prefer Esperanto on the basis that it helps all language learning.

    Five British schools have introduced Esperanto in order to test its propaedeutic values. The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester and the initial encouraging results can be seen at http://www.springboard2languages.org/Summary%20of%20evaluation,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf
    You might also like to see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670

    Pope Gregrory also used this language this year in his Urbi et Orbi address from the Vatican, at Christmas.

    If you have time can I ask you to visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YHALnLV9XU and a glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

  2. Possibly a reason why Latin should be taught rather than Esperanto is that is a ‘real’ rather than a constructed language that was very widely spoken for a millennium or two and has a large literature including some of the literary masterpieces of the world. Its propaedeutic value has been attested already.

    In addition, to learn its grammar and syntax, though admittedly harder than learning the deliberately simple equivalents in Esperanto, gives a deep understanding of the working of most European languages.

    I exclude Chinese from this. Chinese has its own methods which have little or nothing in common with western languages. Even to try to apply what we consider basic linguistic terms to Chinese – verb, adjective, tense – is unhelpful. Hebrew, with its two ‘tenses’, imperfect and perfect (whose meanings are reversed by prefixing ‘and’) and its verb forms like Qal, Pu’al, Niph’al and so on, needs to be learned from scratch, and proficiency in another non-semitic language is unlikely to help.

  3. I like Latin over Esperanto because it is a real language with a real history and culture, and because there is so much ancient history and philosophy already written in it. Latin is just more real and therefore more interesting.

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