Why are students losing interest in these A Level subjects?
Those aren't likely to be English or Spanish books. Source: Element5 Digital on Unsplash

As the UK government pushes its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) agenda, students are losing interest in language subjects and the humanities, new figures on A Level subject interest by exam regulator Ofqual show.

The number of students signing up for English, Geography, History and Religious Studies for their A Level this year has dropped, a continuing trend from last year that education unions see as “worrying”, according to The Independent.

Jill Stokoe, a policy advisor at the National Education Union thinks this boils down the country’s “drive towards STEM”.

There could be another reason at play here too, ie. the recent changes to the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) – a test typically taken by 15 to 16-year-old British students before they move on to A Level.

“With English, history and geography, it could be that the difficulty of the new GCSE specification has put people off at A Level,” Stokoe said.

The A Level (Advanced Level) programme is a pre-university qualification offered by education bodies in the United Kingdom or British Crown dependencies. Students usually take between three and five A-Level subjects; although they can combine any number of subjects, students are usually advised to take subjects relevant to the university degree they are applying for.

Universities then grant conditional offers to applicants based on grades achieved in their A Level or equivalent qualifications.

The provisional figures show a continuing decline in the popularity of modern foreign languages and the arts among students taking their A Level this summer.

The number of A Level students taking up religious studies has fallen by 23 percent, German by 16 percent and geography by 11 percent.

As for English, the uptake for A Level English over two years has declined by 14 percent – from 78,795 in 2016 to 67,865 this year.

Speaking to The Independent, Suzanne O’Farrell, an assessment specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders called this declining interest in English a major concern:

“English is hugely valuable in all sorts of jobs. The decline in uptake is really worrying.”

Conversely, interest in subjects like computing has increased by 23 percent from 7,710 in 2017 to 9,685 this year, and mathematics by three percent.

The trend somehow mirrors the top subjects among international students enroling in UK universities for the 2016/17 academic year. Figures by the UK Council for International Student Affairs show Engineering & Technology, Biological Sciences, Subjects allied to medicine and Computer Science are among the top 10 subjects of study favoured by international students.

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