SCOTLAND The number of pupils studying modern languages, science and maths at higher level has fallen significantly, figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority show.
Only 505 students took higher German in 2022, compared to 780 students in 2020, while the number of students taking French and Spanish at higher level also fell significantly.
Around 3,165 students took Higher Level French in 2020, a number that dropped to 2,500 this year. A total of 2,900 students took Higher Level Spanish in 2020, a drop to 2,465 this year.
The reasons for the sharp drop in the number of students studying modern languages at higher level are not clear, but the question of the affordability of language teaching in schools has been addressed by Holyrood’s inquiry education committee before the pandemic.
In 2019, a survey of teachers by the committee found that languages were the most frequently mentioned subjects.
a decrease in absorption over the previous five years.
Experts have previously raised concerns about the decline in the number of students studying a higher language, warning that low foreign language skills could have a negative impact on the economy with fewer Scots speaking French, German and Spanish, which could be helpful in winning business transactions abroad.
The move also comes as the Scottish government seeks to expand its presence in mainland Europe with a network of centers in cities such as Paris, Berlin and Brussels, with the main aim of bringing the country back into the EU as a newly independent member of the bloc.
Fewer students entered higher English courses in 2022, falling to 34,025 this year, down from 36,370 in 2020.
SQA figures have shown that science and maths have also seen a decline in the number of students taking subjects at A level over the past few years.
19,180 students entered higher mathematics in 2020, and 18,050 in 2022. 8,390 students entered higher physics in 2020, and 8,045 in 2022.
In 2020, the number of higher chemistry students dropped from 10,040 to 9,565 this year. Higher biology has dropped from 7,430 in 2020 to 7,340. Overall, the number of students taking higher exams is down 3 percent from 2021.
However, despite the decline, some subjects saw more students enrolling.
Some 9,770 students enrolled in higher education institutions, an increase of 9,530 from the previous year, and the number of students enrolled in computer science courses rose from 3,165 in 2020 to 3,490 this year.
At National Level 5, the nine most popular subjects are Modern Science, English, History, Mathematics, PE, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Applied Mathematics. Enrollment in all these subjects increased.
The most popular subjects at tertiary level were biology, business management, chemistry, English, history, mathematics, modern studies, physical education and physics.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Willie Rennie said: “Fewer languages being taught is limiting opportunities for young people, harming economy and hardly shows any desire to make Scotland look good on the outside.
“Similarly with stem there are huge opportunities for Scotland to become a global leader.
“We have an extremely talented group of young people, but they will never reach their potential if there are not enough mentors to help and guide them and ignite a love for science.
“By failing to recruit enough trainee teachers in these key subjects, the Scottish Government is setting the country up for decades of failure.
“The Scottish Lib Dems will give young people better access to expert teachers in STEM subjects by bringing back head teachers for each and every science.”
The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.
“As in many other areas of education, it is time for the Scottish Government to get its act together. The pace of change has been glacial, and we need an urgent action plan to address these challenges.”