In France, recent curriculum reforms have signalled the cull of Latin and Greek from the secondary school curriculum – a teacher who criticised the reforms was censured; his blog disappeared. Belgium – because of the strength of its Catholic education long a beacon for Classical education – is witnessing schools dropping ancient languages in favour of STEM subjects at an alarming rate, driven similarly by the government agenda. As I am writing this article, I notice an online piece on the deteriorating situation in Malta, too. Throughout Europe, the financial crisis is spurring on governments and schools to intensify their push for STEM subjects – hailed as an instant fix for the faltering global economy – while vilifying less immediately practical subjects. A conversation with a French colleague who was lamenting the oppressing regime made me realise how well the UK is doing in comparison with other countries in Europe. Numbers of (state) secondary schools offering Latin are increasing, and thanks to the Department for Education, primary schools can offer Latin and Greek at Key Stage 2. Of course we should not delude ourselves: the number of secondary schools offering Latin is still low, the teaching of Greek is particularly disheartening, and only about 2% of all primary schools so far have opted to teach Latin and none (to my knowledge) have chosen Greek. Nevertheless, in comparison to the rest of Europe, a government which (whatever else one may think of it) supports the teaching of Classical languages, a growing number of hubs which see all levels of education collaborating creatively, and flourishing outreach organisations which offer financial and logistical support, give the UK at least some cause for optimism.
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