Social capital and modern language initiatives in times of policy uncertainty

Gallagher-Brett, Angela and Doughty, Hannelore and McGuinness, Heather (2014) Social capital and modern language initiatives in times of policy uncertainty. Scottish Languages Review, Spring/Su (27). pp. 39-52.

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    Abstract

    Language professionals across the United Kingdom have long been apprehensive about low levels of participation in language learning, as well as disparities in gender and social class of language learners. However, the distinct policy contexts in England and in Scotland have led to divergent [re]actions with regard to this common concern. This article traces the policy paths taken by the respective governments since the start of the 21st century. The development and impact of a major funding programme in England, the ‘Routes into Languages’ initiative, are outlined, assessed and contrasted with the situation in Scotland. Using Putnam’s notion of social capital (durable networks between people from different social groupings) as a powerful means to implement change the authors demonstrate that in England considerable and beneficial links across previous educational divides have developed as part of the ‘Routes’ initiative, despite the continuing threat of transient policy contexts. In Scotland, the implementation phase of the new 1+2 languages policy might provide the impetus to develop a comparable initiative to ‘Routes’. Arguably, a sea change in attitudes to language learning is unlikely to happen without durable and sustainable social capital between staff in school and university.