Call for Mandarin and Arabic to be taught from primary school
Business leaders warn of "uncertainty" created by referendum on EU membership
Studying a foreign language should be compulsory from the year children start school in order for Scottish firms to compete in the international export market, a business group has urged.
Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Arabic and Russian have been pinpointed by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) as “international languages of business” that must be made mandatory in the education curriculum from primary 1 onwards.
It has called on government to implement the measure by 2020 to ensure Scottish businesses have sufficient cultural and language skills to tap into a number of growing economies.
The demand is among a number of 'business asks', which also include staying in the European Union, set out as part of the Scottish Business Voice Campaign, led by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network.
“If we want to be more international, then we need to think more international, beginning in our schools, where international business languages must be taught from primary school right through to the end of secondary schooling and beyond,” said SCC director and chief executive, Liz Cameron OBE.
“Over the past two decades, the number of students studying modern languages at Higher or equivalent has fallen by over 20 per cent. This is a damaging trend which needs to be reversed.
“We should look more closely at where economic growth will be attained and that should determine the languages delivered by the supply side, ensuring the curriculum reflects needs of business more.”
The business group has also stressed the need to make opportunities for overseas study mandatory for university degrees within the next five years.
The SCC, which has over 11,000 member businesses, warned against a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union amid fears export values could be hit by an exit.
The Conservatives have pledged to hold an in/out referendum in 2017 if returned to Downing Street. Exports to the EU comprised almost half of Scotland’s international exports in 2013, totalling almost £13bn.
“Firms have told us that remaining as part of the EU single market is in the best interests of Scotland with current and future exporters citing the EU as their main target market for exporting goods and services,” added SCC director and chief executive Cameron.
“By all means seek reform, for example around what constitutes state aid and how we can make public procurement work for small businesses in Scotland, but having yet another referendum in Scotland would create uncertainty and, as Scottish business leaders, our energy and efforts are, and will continue to be, devoted to growing our economy and creating jobs.”
Calls for the immediate devolution of Air Passenger Duty to Holyrood have been reiterated with the SCC urging the Scottish Government to “act immediately” to abolish the levy in full. As it stands, ministers have announced their intention to halve APD first, with a view to eventual abolition.
Professor Polly Arnold OBE is the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, talks through the Scottish Government’s STEM strategy
New BSL national plan covers all national public bodies directly answerable to Scottish Ministers
Public sector pay cap lifted as Nicola Sturgeon outlines programme for government