Cash-in or continue? An exploration of the drop-out from German foreign language study between AS and A2 levels

Catherine Watts, Angela Pickering

Research output: Other contribution


Whilst the academic year 2001/2 saw a rise in the number of students taking post-16 modern foreign language public examinations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, entries at the full A2 level in the same subject area were down, the biggest drops being for French and German. This drop has serious implications for the provision of advanced-level modern foreign language study across the post-compulsory educational sectors, including degree-level foreign language study and teacher education. The main aim of this study was to explore some of the reasons behind the drop out from German foreign language study between AS and A2 levels in England, using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research methods. The qualitative dimension of the study highlighted the following reasons as key determiners in the decision to discontinue German language study at A2 level: the difficulty of German and the German AS level curriculum (encompassing the notions of the unexpected ‘jump’ between GCSE and AS level German and the time-consuming nature of the subject); tactical decision-making regarding the need to accumulate the highest possible points score for university entrance; low AS level grades; the perceived lack of relevance of German to future career/study paths; the lack of subject enjoyment at AS level. The quantitative data showed that most respondents had experienced a substantial drop in their grades for German between GCSE and AS level. Regarding predicted grades at AS level, more than half of the predictions were too high by at least one grade (95 per cent confidence interval of 39 to 63%) compared with the grades actually achieved. Results concerning subject enjoyment at AS level and topics studied were inconclusive, but 83% of respondents agreed that there had been a big jump from GCSE to AS level in German. Furthermore, 64% of the participants found the German grammar at AS level off-putting and 74% felt that German at AS level was the most difficult of all the AS level subjects taken. Significantly, 69% believed that doing German at A2 would have lowered their overall grades for university entrance, whilst the same number (69%) said that they alone had been mainly responsible for their decision to drop German post AS level. In light of both the findings emerging from this study and the recently published ‘Tomlinson report’ (DfES 2004) which targets the 14–19 age group, it is suggested that the time is now ripe to consider the content of German curricula for this age range in some detail and to explore further ways of improving the quality and content of the learning experience
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAnglo-German Foundation
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

ISBN: 1900834448


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