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Investment in language education is doubling for the UK economy

Cargo ship. Credit: dendoktoor via Pixape

Increasing the number of middle school students learning Arabic, Mandarin, French or Spanish could boost the UK economy by billions of pounds in 30 years, a new study has revealed. The study warns that the continuing decline in language learning in UK schools is undermining the country’s ability to compete internationally.


New research from RAND Europe, a Cambridge University and nonprofit research firm, shows that investing in language education in the UK is more profitable than investing under conservative assumptions.

The cost-benefit ratios for improving Arabic, Mandarin, French or Spanish education are estimated to be at least 2: 1, with approximately £ revenue, with the broader economic benefits to the UK economy being calculated by expanding language instruction in schools. At a cost of 1.

As more students aged 11-16 – Level 3 (KS3) and Level 4 (KS4) – learned to speak one of four different languages, researchers used the larger economic model to study the UK’s economic performance now and between 2050. Active in business. Modeling is built into the government’s successful Mandarin Excellence program, where extra hours are allocated for language learning without affecting other EBacc subjects, and the lessons are faster and more engaging.

The analysis shows that a ten percentage point increase in the number of UK students learning Arabic at K3 / Grade 4 could increase UK GDP from £ 11.8 billion to £ 12.6 billion in 30 years. Schools do not change. This is 0.5% of the UK’s GDP in 2019.

The increase in students learning the Mandarin language will increase GDP to $ 11.5 billion and $ 12.3 billion, respectively. For the French, the benefits range from 9.1 billion to £ 9.5 billion, and for the Spaniards the increase is estimated at between £ 1.1 billion and £ 9.7 billion.

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Wendy Ayers-Bennett, lead author of the study and professor of French linguistics and linguistics at Cambridge, said: “Languages ​​play an important role in international trade, and having one common language, and all being equal, will reduce trade barriers and increase trade. The study provides an estimate.”

“However, the UK has seen a sharp decline in language development since 2004. As the UK government seeks to restore its global economic ties, such a decline in language skills could affect the UK’s competitiveness and global position.”

The researchers calculated the benefit-cost ratio for each year in each of the four languages ​​under study using a range of tuition cost estimates per student: £ 600 to £ 800 for Arabic; Mandarin 480 to 720; 240 yen to 600 for French and Spanish.

The result of a 2: 1 cost-benefit ratio for each language shows that there is a recognizable income not only in economic terms, but also in the UK by producing workers with the language skills needed to compete internationally and invest in language education. .

The report notes that while the UK has comparative advantages due to the global nature of the English language, it is not the only driver in some key business sectors such as mining, energy and services. There is not much in reducing trade barriers.

UK exports are expected to rise as the number of languages ​​shared with its trading partners increases. The report shows that the removal of language barriers with trading partners in Arab, Chinese, French and Spanish-speaking countries could increase UK exports by about 19 billion annually.

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Marco Hafner, co-author and chief economist at RAND Europe, said: “The analysis presented in this study shows that investing in language education can offset its cost, but the idea behind the analysis is not to change or reduce education, but rather to change languages ​​and mathematics in the STEM fields (STEM ) Or other EBacc subjects.The aim is to demonstrate the value of improving the quality and quantity of language teaching for middle school students across the UK.


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More info:

The Economic Value of the United Kingdom Speaking Other Languages ​​(2022). DOI: 10.7249 / RRA1814-1

Presented by the University of Cambridge

Quote: Investment in language education doubles in the UK economy (22 February 2022) Retrieved March 3, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-investment-languages-uk-economy.html

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