EDINBURGH, August 22 (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst – A decision by a Scottish government agency to scrap the Russian language exam in Scottish schools is not aimed at marginalizing Russia as a result of recent East-West tensions, the Chairwoman of the Scotland-Russia Forum has told RIA Novosti.
Jenny Carr, who runs a volunteer-based charity that builds greater understanding of Russia and Russian culture told RIA Novosti, “I don't believe that this decision is in any way part of a concerted effort by the Scottish government, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) or schools to marginalize Russia.”
Carr’s comments came after the SQA revealed that from 2015 Scottish pupils would no longer be allowed to obtain a Russian language qualification as part of the curriculum because, the government agency claimed, too few pupils were sitting the exam at present. But the Scottish government agency’s own official figures reveal a 44-percent rise in pupils sitting the test in 2014.
In a statement a spokesman for the SQA said, “Russian will continue to be taught through our Modern Languages for Work Purposes Units at a variety of stages, some of which are of a comparable standard to Higher [the final exam Scottish pupils take]. In addition, Russian is also available as part of the Languages for Life and Work Award.”
Carr, who is a passionate advocate of Russia and Russian culture, told RIA Novosti, “I am not being anti-Russian government but unfortunately Russia has done this to itself historically by not supporting the mainstream teaching of its language and culture in the way that all other languages are supported.
“I feel quite strongly on this point and have made this point to President Putin’s cultural adviser that it is about time Russia supported the language,” Carr said.
She pointed to the examples of other languages, such as Chinese and German where the respective governments encourage and support the teaching of their language in English-speaking countries.
“Without the support of the Hanban-funded Confucius Hubs it is doubtful that Chinese would be so successful and the same goes for Goethe Institute support for German, French Institute support for French and so on,” Carr told RIA Novosti.
She added that, despite the decision taken by the SQA, there remained other opportunities for Scots to learn Russian through adult evening classes, school clubs and private colleges and schools.
Dr. Vicky Chondrogianni, an Assistant Professor in Bilingualism at the University of Edinburgh told RIA Novosti, “From a scientific point of view, it is clear that there are many benefits to learning languages regardless of their political, economic or cultural status."
“In fact, one of our aims at the University of Edinburgh is to raise awareness about the positive effects of bilingualism and bilingual education through dissemination activities at the Bilingualism Matters Centre,” Chondrogianni added.
Chondrogianni expressed disappointment at the SQA decision to axe the Russian language qualification from Scottish schools.
“We feel strongly that language learning should be promoted in the curriculum rather than cut,” Chondrogianni told RIA Novosti.
“Looking at the UK, the number of pupils becoming independent users of a foreign language is strikingly low compared to other European countries. We need to step up our efforts to embrace bilingualism at all educational levels”.