Hedgeman49
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7297143.stm

Keeping up with modern education, or begging for state school applicants? Discuss.
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hobnob
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Neither. Apparently it was routinely waived anyway, so formally getting rid of it was only a logical step.
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Hedgeman49
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That is true, but I think formally announcing it (and the media attention it brings) was a ploy to try to boost their numbers of state school applicants. Even though anybody who knows even a little about Cambridge applications would realise that the language requirement was routinely waived, the rule was still in writing and therefore had an effect on some prospective applicants.
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epitome
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(Original post by Hedgeman49)
That is true, but I think formally announcing it (and the media attention it brings) was a ploy to try to boost their numbers of state school applicants. Even though anybody who knows even a little about Cambridge applications would realise that the language requirement was routinely waived, the rule was still in writing and therefore had an effect on some prospective applicants.
It's hardly cynical to want to boost number of state school applicants, when the press and government are braying for it, for goodness' sake. You seem to be treating this as a kind of secret conspiracy, when it's a perfectly open and obvious strategy. There's not exactly a problem there!

Let me explain.

Cambridge gets berated for not having enough state school students (in proportion to the number of pupils in state schools countrywide). The problem, however, is not at the admissions stage (as the media tries to make out), but at the applications stage. That is, not enough state schoolers apply. The proportions of those who apply from each type of school who then get offers are actually extremely similar; the issue is simply that proportionately more private/public schoolers apply in the first place.

So: instead of trying to let more state schoolers in at the admissions stage (which would be ridiculous -- they'd have to let more people in of a lower standard), they have to encourage more people from state schools to aply in the first place (because there are more than enough extremely bright state schoolers to be able to plug the gap, but Cambridge can't admit them if they don't apply in the first place!).

Getting rid of the CAF (Cambridge Application Form), and the associated extra £10 charge, was a move to abolish something that is a genuine turn-off for people from non-traditional backgrounds. Getting rid of the MFL (Modern Foreign Language) GCSE Matriculation requirement is not *quite* the same thing, in that it is BOTH keeping up with the current educational climate AND (as a result) facilitiating/encouraging the applications of more state schoolers which, as explained above, will naturally cause an increase in state school admissions.

More explaining:

Only 50% of school pupils take a MFL GCSE. If Cambridge requires this as part of its Matric rules, it *automatically* rules out 50% of school leavers. It is very important to note that the vast majority of those leaving school without a MFL are from state schools. This is because state schools are often the first to take on new government initiatives (prioritising the technologies over the languages, for example), and they also often have to take on 'easier' or vocational GCSEs in order to keep their statistics at a reasonable level. This is the problem when ignorant statisticians run the education system, rather than educationalists...but that's an argument for another day. Basically, the worse schools will most often tend to take on the softer subjects, in order to keep their marks up. MFLs are traditionally academic subjects, and - because they're no longer a government requirement - they tend to get dropped first (because everyone still has to do English, Science and Maths).

To continue to require a MFL, then, would mean that Cambridge would be ruling out 50% of pupils, the *vast* majority from state schools. You don't need me to explain why that is a problem.

Now, as *hobnob* mentions, the MFL requirement was waived in pretty much all cases anyway -- it has been dying a death for a long time. It made sense, therefore, to get rid of it officially. So, to finally come to your point about announcing it to the media: OF COURSE it's a move to encourage more state school students to apply! So many students every year do not apply because of various misconceptions about the Cambridge system (misconceptions which, as often as not, are generated by people who know "a little" but not a lot about the Cambridge system...know-it-all teachers, for example). Cambridge's being able to announce that this requirement has utterly gone is therefore really important! There's nothing cynical about it -- it's a simple fact that 50% of students don't have a MFL, which puts Cam at a disadvantage when trying to get the best students, if they're hindered by a formality such as this. It will continue to be a requirement for some degrees, as each Faculty/Department deems fit; but it will stop being an arbitrary blanket requirement.

Of course, this facilitiates the application of more state schoolers, which will naturally increase state school applications. Which, given the gross inequalities of admissions between state & private, is no bad thing! Cambridge has to be able to advertise the efforts it is making to break down the barriers, even though the majority of those barriers are actually not created by Cambridge. The least the media and government can do, after slating Cambridge so much, is to give the uni a chance to disseminate the truth occasionally!

Does that explain?
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FadeToBlackout
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The problem with coming into a thread like this after Epitome is that she's already supplied ALL the answers.

:p:
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coldfish
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Ok, I smell a troll. This is the third time that somebody's tried to stir up controversy in the Oxbridge subforum by making a statement and finishing "discuss". Luckily this time it's been nipped in the bud before anybody could whip it up.
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7589200
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I think its a good idea! If you're clever enough to do STEP questions why the hell should you have learn how to speak incredibly fragmented german which you'll forget straight after the exam. Most comprehensive kids aren't even told about these sorts of things... its a great idea actaully. Well done Cambridge!
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epitome
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(Original post by FadeToBlackout)
The problem with coming into a thread like this after Epitome is that she's already supplied ALL the answers.
Sorry!
(There is pay-back from the Cosmos, though: I know more about access & admissions than I do about my own dissertation subject...! )
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Hedgeman49
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Yes, you have made some very valid points. I myself am one of these state school students - we were not offered any GCSE MFLs, and were instead pushed towards GNVQs and other vocational subjects. I myself took GNVQ ICT, and even I can see that I didn't have to put in the amount of work that would correlate with four A grades in other subjects. I never wanted to apply to Cambridge, but I do know others who did and were put off by the MFL matriculation requirement.
I did not accuse Cambridge of being cynical, I merely highlighted that they had taken this rare media opportunity to advertise themselves to the state sector. I started this thread to stimulate debate, not to lambast Cambridge.
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Andy H
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If I didn't have a MFL GCSE and wanted to apply to Cambridge I would see that they required one, and hence probably not apply in all honesty!

I think it is a good thing that they no longer require it because this could put of some of the best (more sciency subjects) applicants as they didn't go to a school where they were forced to do a language GCSE.

I mean come on, not many people are thinking about specific university requirements when they pick their GCSEs!
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Echolife
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It was only this week I was thinking of emailing one of the colleges to see if they would waiver it. One less thing to do.
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hobnob
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(Original post by Andy H)
If I didn't have a MFL GCSE and wanted to apply to Cambridge I would see that they required one, and hence probably not apply in all honesty!

I think it is a good thing that they no longer require it because this could put of some of the best (more sciency subjects) applicants as they didn't go to a school where they were forced to do a language GCSE.

I mean come on, not many people are thinking about specific university requirements when they pick their GCSEs!
Well, no, but I suppose you might argue that requiring rudimentary knowledge of at least one foreign language by the age of 15 isn't really asking an awful lot... To be honest, I don't really see why schools don't make it compulsory, actually. At that level, languages aren't terribly difficult (especially considering that if I remember correctly, all Cambridge required was a C for the foreign language GCSE, which shouldn't be too difficult even for a very sciency-minded person).
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Zoedotdot
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(Original post by hobnob)
Well, no, but I suppose you might argue that requiring rudimentary knowledge of at least one foreign language by the age of 15 isn't really asking an awful lot... To be honest, I don't really see why schools don't make it compulsory, actually. At that level, languages aren't terribly difficult (especially considering that if I remember correctly, all Cambridge required was a C for the foreign language GCSE, which shouldn't be too difficult even for a very sciency-minded person).
To be honest, a lot of schools will now push their students away from languages. For example, in my school you simply were not allowed to take an MFL GCSE unless you were in the top set for languages. Now, there are people who are exceptional at, say, Maths, but hopeless at languages. I definitely know people who were in top set for everything except for a set 2 in languages, and could not take the GCSE. That wasn't their choice and yes, they probably could have got a C at GCSE, but my school thought that it would be better for them to take GNVQs instead.

So it's not really down to personal choice, it's down to the rules of the school. My school didn't want their results being dragged down by a load of people failing their GCSE language so only let the top set take it. Although, by an unlucky coincidence, we had issues with teaching so I think half the top set got below a C anyway :rolleyes:
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epitome
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(Original post by hobnob)
Well, no, but I suppose you might argue that requiring rudimentary knowledge of at least one foreign language by the age of 15 isn't really asking an awful lot... To be honest, I don't really see why schools don't make it compulsory, actually. At that level, languages aren't terribly difficult (especially considering that if I remember correctly, all Cambridge required was a C for the foreign language GCSE, which shouldn't be too difficult even for a very sciency-minded person).
Whilst I agree that it should be compulsory, it has to be made so by the *government*, not the schools. The reason so many schools don't enforce it is because it is one of the more 'academic' GCSEs, and so has the potential to bring their results down -- particularly in the academically poorer schools (viz. the lower end of state schools, mainly). As the government berates the schools who don't keep their statistics up, those schools have to find a way to get around the problems, which essentially means they cut out all non-compulsory academics and replace them with cooking, or Leisure & Tourism, or whatever.

It is also (sorry) naive to say that the languages "aren't terribly difficult" at that level. They might not be for us, but they ARE for people in struggling schools, with struggling teachers, in disrupted classes. And before anyone says something like "Those students should teach themselves to make up for the environmental problems"...this simply isn't valid for many of those from rubbish school and/or environmental backgrounds. And it *certainly* isn't valid for those who perhaps aren't at the top of academic ability. That C at GCSE can be a major hurdle even for the very bright, if all circumstances conspire against them, and they don't know how to start getting help. (At just one level up, in my school no-one managed to get higher than a C at AS or A Level. And most of them were A or B students in ther subjects -- it was simply bad teaching and not knowing how to rectify the situation).

For as long as the government refuses/is unable to see that education extends beyond its own amitions and initiatives, schools will be forced to take shortcuts and seriously damage the long-term education of their pupils in order to continue to operate (i.e. without intrusion/chastisement by the govt. and LEA). Meanwhile, those schools with with money and/or autonomy, can continue to provide a good education for its pupils.

(NB: There are, of course, lots of schools, both grammar and state, in the middle, muddling along okay).
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hobnob
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(Original post by epitome)
Whilst I agree that it should be compulsory, it has to be made so by the *government*, not the schools. The reason so many schools don't enforce it is because it is one of the more 'academic' GCSEs, and so has the potential to bring their results down -- particularly in the academically poorer schools (viz. the lower end of state schools, mainly). As the government berates the schools who don't keep their statistics up, those schools have to find a way to get around the problems, which essentially means they cut out all non-compulsory academics and replace them with cooking, or Leisure & Tourism, or whatever.
Good point. I completely forgot about those statistics, sorry.

It is also (sorry) naive to say that the languages "aren't terribly difficult" at that level. They might not be for us, but they ARE for people in struggling schools, with struggling teachers, in disrupted classes. And before anyone says something like "Those students should teach themselves to make up for the environmental problems"...this simply isn't valid for many of those from rubbish school and/or environmental backgrounds. And it *certainly* isn't valid for those who perhaps aren't at the top of academic ability. That C at GCSE can be a major hurdle even for the very bright, if all circumstances conspire against them, and they don't know how to start getting help. (At just one level up, in my school no-one managed to get higher than a C at AS or A Level. And most of them were A or B students in ther subjects -- it was simply bad teaching and not knowing how to rectify the situation).
But surely a bad learning environment has a negative effect on people's performance in all subjects? Why would it affect language GCSEs any more than, say, Geography?:confused:
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(Original post by Hedgeman49)
I never wanted to apply to Cambridge, but I do know others who did and were put off by the MFL matriculation requirement.

Surely that answers your question then? They're doing it so that people aren't put off by an archaic rule that is never put into effect anyway. You say that anyone who knows 'anything' about admissions would know that it's waived, but the only place where it seems to be commonly known is here (because students like myself have been admitted despite not having an MFL), and not many people actually come here. The rule is termed in fairly stern words on the website, and only cites special circumstances as an exception. It would be a bit silly to quietly change the rule, as plenty of older students and teachers would probably still continue to discourage students from applying because of their supposed ineligibility.
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X123
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because geography can far more easily be taught straight out of a textbook and learnt from home, however to learn french just from a textbook would be far more difficult!..
With simple knowledge based subjects you can learn just from reading, however languages are somewhat different from most subjects in that they use their own alphabet, their own rules, and also you cannot learn pronunciation just from a textbook or CD!
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hobnob
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(Original post by xander12345678)
because geography can far more easily be taught straight out of a textbook and learnt from home, however to learn french just from a textbook would be far more difficult!..

With simple knowledge based subjects you can learn just from reading, however languages are somewhat different from most subjects in that they use their own alphabet, their own rules, and also you cannot learn pronunciation just from a textbook or CD!
Hmm, I don't think this contrast is really as great as it's often made out to be, actually. After all, languages aren't purely about speaking and getting the pronunciation right. They are also partly "knowledge-based" in that basic vocabulary and grammar just have to be learnt by heart at some point - and you may as well learn them from a textbook as from having them drummed into you by a teacher.
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epitome
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(Original post by hobnob)
But surely a bad learning environment has a negative effect on people's performance in all subjects? Why would it affect language GCSEs any more than, say, Geography?
It does have a bad effect on all subjects. I think you might be missing the point a bit -- I'm in a rush, but will try to make sense of it:

All schools are ranked according to success at GCSE level, and this ranking has a *significant* impact on the further success of the schools (for vairous reasons, unimportant here). There are core academic subjects which all pupils in all schools have to study. Maths, English Language, and a Science. No other subjects are compulsory. These subjects are the only ones where the best and worst schools are judged on a level plaing field, and - obviously - the better schools come out best. In order to even things out, statistically, the worse schools then opt for 'easier' subjects in order to boost their students' marks, and therefore the schools' statistics.

Those schools dodging MFLs will often not insist that their students do a Humanities subject either -- all time might be taken up with GNVQs in Leisure & Tourism, Health & Beauty, or IT or something along those lines. So, where there are problems with MFLs there are often problems with ALL traditionaly academic subjects, but the problem is hidden by slightly etter statistics coming from the softer courses. This is why a new ranking system has been brought in, which ranks according to marks in those unavoidable academic subjects (Maths, English, Science).
So, the problem is not MFL-specific, it's just that MFL used to be compulsory and now it's not. All academic subjects are suffering, it's just most obvious with those that were once a core part of secondary education (and a core part of uiversity entrance).

Sorry for the haste, but I hope that sheds some light?
Essentially, it's *not* that MFL is the only thing that's affected, it's just that that one is easier to measure (and it's hte one under discussion).

(NB: I've said things like 'better' and 'worse' schools. Obviously, I'm generalising. Use common sense...)
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7589200
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Exactly - if you found someone who got straight 300s in their AS levels - all of which were highly applicable to the subject, you wouldn't complain that they didnt know how to say 'i like playing football' in german!
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