More and more higher-education students are turning their back on modern languages studies, according to a poll carried out by the Free University of Brussels (VUB). Over the last five years, the study reveals, the number of modern languages students has fallen by 23%.
Spanish and German are the main victims, according to head of English Alex Housen. “There’s a general depression at the level of universities and colleges. They’re no longer interesting, since the workforce is demanding a command of other languages. And what’s remarkable is that Flemings used to be known for their language ability. That’s becoming less and less the case.”
Speaking in De Morgen, Prof Housen lay some of the blame on another policy of the Flemish government, which is in charge of education policy. “Government promotional campaigns have worked hand in had,” he explains. “There was a conscious decision to work in favour of so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, electronics and maths). We needed to have engineers, computer programmers, chemists, biologists. The government said so clearly, and we saw the results in secondary schools, where those subjects were more often selected. Some schools also receive extra support according to their participation in Stem subjects, but that’s not the case for schools who offer lessons in French or English. The government needs to give some thought to that.”