The investigation looked at statistical evidence including measures of relative subject difficulty, trends in modern foreign language entries, the views of stakeholders and awarding organisations, academic papers, the CEFR and the “potential impact on society” to reach their conclusions.
“We are satisfied that a sufficiently strong case exists for us to intervene”
“Building on our extensive body of work, we have looked at this issue from a wide range of different perspectives. We are satisfied that a sufficiently strong case exists for us to intervene to adjust grading standards in GCSE French and German,” said Michelle Meadows, director of strategy, risk and research at Ofqual.
“We are talking to exam boards about how best to implement this adjustment.”
Earlier this year the BBC reported that foreign language learning has dropped to its lowest level this century, with drops in the numbers of people taking MFL GCSEs reaching 30-50% in some areas compared to 2013.
French and German have particularly suffered, although there has been some increase in the uptake of Spanish and Mandarin.
This is not the first time adjustments to language exam marking for UK national qualifications have been made.
In 2017, Ofqual had to adjust marking for language A-levels due to the increasing number of native speakers sitting the exams as a foreign language.
Ofqual is currently assessing how to implement changes to bring French and German GCSE marking in line with other courses, with the aim of changes taking effect by next year. Previous exam grades will not be readjusted.
“We welcome the review which is needed to make sure that content of the GCSE is engaging, relevant to young people, accessible to all and that it is assessed in a fair, valid and reliable way,” said Jane Harvey, president of the Association for Language Learning.
According to a poll commissioned by the British Council last year, Spanish is the most popular language among language learners in Britain, followed by French, Italian, German and Japanese.