THE number of pupils choosing key modern languages has fallen sharply.

Figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show the number of entries for Higher French dropped from 4,581 in 2016 to 3,918 this year.

The figures for German have also fallen, with entries declining from 1,019 to 890 year-on-year.

However, the increasing popularity of Spanish has continued, with entries rising from 2,600 last year to 2,809.

Entries at the lower National 5 level for French and German have also fallen.

Gillian Campbell-Thow, chairwoman of the Scottish Association of Language Teachers, called for action to reverse the drop.

She said: “The dip in numbers is due to curriculum structure because schools no longer have the chance to take as many subjects and languages are getting squeezed.

“We also need to look at initial teacher education for people to be able to get qualified in more than one language.

“The Scottish Government’s language strategy is not working at the moment because curriculum pathways are not supporting it and the teachers are not there.”

Jackie Killeen, director of British Council Scotland, which supports language learning, said any reduction was of concern.

Previous research by the British Council has found the UK has a shortage of people able to speak the 10 most important world languages, which may hamper the country’s future prosperity and global standing.

She said: “Gaining language skills at school not only improves the skills and employability of young people, it has also been shown to help in other areas of learning, such as reading, writing, communication and confidence.

“We need language skills for trade, diplomacy and cultural exports, so they matter not just for the prospects of individual young people, but for the overall success and prosperity of our country.”

Both the Tories and Scottish Labour also issued warnings over the decline in key modern languages at Higher and National 5.

However, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “This is the third consecutive year that Higher entries for modern languages have exceeded 8,000, despite a fall in the size of the school year-groups involved.

“Our ambition is to expand and improve language learning, so that young people are equipped with the skills they need in an increasingly globalised world.”

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) welcomed the popularity of sciences at Advanced Higher level.

Science subjects number four out of the five of the most popular Advanced Highers, while popularity of Highers in science remains steady.

Dr Sarah Main, executive director of Case, said: “Scotland has a great reputation for excellence in scientific research and it is encouraging to see so many students choosing to pursue science subjects at Advanced Higher.

“These results show the popularity of science subjects among Scottish students also remains steady at Higher level after a recent dip, although it is a concern that pass rates remain comparatively low.”