London, Feb 21: Minority languages such as Bengali, Arabic and Mandarin should be given the same priority as French, German and Spanish in schools, announced British government officials.
Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), the education watchdog, said that languages spoken by minority communities in Britain must be given more importance in school timetables, bringing them at par with the major European languages. However, the teachers' leaders attacked the move branding it as unrealistic and said that there were too few language teachers to make it work.
"There is a great gap between aspiration and reality. You can't just snap your fingers and have enough highly skilled and qualified language teachers in place. We already have a problem with that as it is, with primary schools now looking to teach languages," the Telegraph quoted Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, as saying.
Sinnott added that it would take four years to train a language teacher from scratch.
A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) said that the policy was effectively in place already. Following a review of the national curriculum, secondary schools are able to treat all languages equally.
"It's already happened. From this year there is no distinction between the languages that schools want to teach. If they want to teach a particular language they are free to do so," he said.
Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) also criticized the teacher training system, warning that most "community language" teachers in England were not properly qualified.
Ofsted said: "The majority of community languages teachers surveyed did not have qualified teacher status.
"Just over a quarter of them were qualified in the UK to teach languages. Barely a fifth had a postgraduate certificate in education in any subject," the organization added.