London (dpa) – Latin, they like to say, was the late revenge of the Romans on the Germans. If the British government’s plans go ahead, thousands of English students will soon be able to cash in on the bon mot. Because Secretary of Education Gavin Williamson wants to significantly expand the teaching of Latin in public schools.
British comedian group Monty Python used to joke about Latin, now the government wants to revive the ‘dead’ language – are the British crazy, as comic book hero Obelix would say?
Obviously not. Williamson sees benefits at several levels – Latin could even help improve school education, which is often criticized as a two-class system. “We know that Latin has a reputation for being an elitist subject reserved for the privileged,” Williamson said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. “But the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to close this gap.”
The status quo shows a dramatic difference: While Latin is offered in about half (49 percent) of private education institutions, the subject is offered in only 2.7 percent of public schools, according to a report from the British Council. In comparison, in Germany, a total of 5.8 percent of students learned Latin in 2019/20.
The British school system is seen as one of the causes of social injustice in the country. While wealthy parents send their children to private schools for tens of thousands of pounds a year, where they often forge elite circles for their future professional lives at a young age, children who attend free state schools often have more difficulty finding good jobs affected by poverty and poverty. violence.
Studies have shown that private school graduates have significantly better career options. The country is dominated by a small layer of the seven percent who have visited private institutions, the think tank Sutton Trust discovered in 2019. Judges, doctors, the army or even politicians such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who, however, had a scholarship – the majority of the British leaders enjoyed private education.
Now Latin should help to restore this imbalance. But there are other reasons too, writes the Telegraph. Knowledge of Latin is also useful in other subjects, such as English or Mathematics. In addition, the ministry is betting that Latin will also help in learning other languages.
With the exception of Spanish, interest in modern foreign languages has declined sharply in recent years, according to the British Council. In 2005, 12,716 young people chose French for their A-qualification, comparable to the Abitur, in 2020 there were only 7557. The number of German graduates even halved during that period: from 5,481 to 2,666.
This must be countered. One reason – even if no one is putting it in their mouth – is Brexit. Because the new, strict immigration rules make it difficult for skilled workers to move in and exchange with foreigners. The fact that the UK government left the Erasmus student exchange program after leaving the EU is also seen as a setback for language exchanges. Too many Brits, they admit, rely on the global lingua franca of English to get far in the world. And then notice that there is still a problem with the communication.
In addition, the corona pandemic has reversed language acquisition. Foreign languages were often one of the first subjects to be dropped from video lessons, the British Council points out. The die is cast: A four-year pilot program is planned in 40 public schools, mainly in socially disadvantaged areas, with a total of £4 million (€4.7 million). The focus is mainly on children and young people between the ages of 11 and 16.
Visits to Roman sites in the country are planned as an incentive to promote a deeper understanding of the language and culture. After all, Great Britain has a rich Roman history, with the Romans ruling large parts of the island for centuries. Archaeologists can still find Roman ruins or mosaics.