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Alarms Sound As Language and Science Take Up Plummets


The CBI has alarmed the business community by highlighting the fall in science and foreign language take up amongst students.

The number of 16 to 18 year olds taking A Level physics more than halved (55%) between 1984 and 2004 while chemistry declined by a third (33%).

While just one in 25 students study a modern language at A Level. Mandarin, Russian and Spanish take up is worryingly low too, said the CBI.

According to the CBI statistics, the number of 16 to 18 year olds studying a language A Level decreased by a fifth between 1999 and 2004 with German and French down 34% and 30% respectively. Last year just 451 people in England and Wales took A Level Russian, 1,677 studied Chinese and 4,650 learned Spanish.

Sir Digby Jones, CBI Director-General said: "Britain is the country of Stephenson and Brunel, Watson and Crick, Sir Frank Whittle and Stephen Hawking - but while its heritage is rich with scientific achievement and engineering endeavour, the future is less certain.

"Youngsters need to be equipped with the skills to make their way in the competitive globalised economy of the 21st century and business must have them if it is to meet the onslaught from countries like China and India. China alone produces almost 300,000 high quality science and engineering graduates each year.”

The 2005 CBI/Pertemps Employment Trends Survey, due to be published in the autumn, reveals significant employer dissatisfaction (74%) with the language capability of school-leavers. At graduate level the level of dissatisfaction among employers was over half (54%).

One fifth of companies believed they had lost business because of a lack of language and cultural skills, while one quarter had experienced problems handling international business.

Digby Jones has urged the Government, teachers, careers advisors and companies to all take a part in tackling the issue.


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