STAFF REPORTER
PALMA

CHILDREN in the Balearics will have to start learning a foreign language - preferably English - from the age of five, under new educational plans being introduced by the Balearic Department of Education.

Currently, Balearic children have to start learning a foreign language at the age of eight.
The Department's plan, which embraces a range of new measures relating to both infant, primary and secondary education, will come into force at the beginning of the new school year.

The Minister for Education, Barbara Galmes, pointed out that one of the principal objectives of her Government was to improve the education system. Currently, about 30 percent of children leaving school have not obtained the obligatory second-level diploma.

From now on, the Government intends to establish the concept of basic competency, a method of evaluating the students' abilities on finishing basic education and which relates to nine areas: language skills; mathematical skills; knowledge and interaction with the physical world; information and technology skills; social and civic responsibility; cultural and artistic skills; learning skills; independent life skills; and personal initiative. “It's about giving children the skills to deal with daily life,” said Galmes.
She said the basic skills were intended to make the child able “to understand and express themselves correctly in the written and spoken forms of the language”.

The plan also contains a number of measures designed to improve the reading skills of Balearic children. Each school will have to spend a certain amount of time devoted to reading.

The Director General of Administration, Planing and Educational Inspection, Maria Gener, said that the Department was considering lowering even further the age at which children are obliged to start learning a foreign language to four.

However, Gener said that at the moment it was still only being treated as a proposal.

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