SCOTLAND has seen a huge drop in the number of pupils taking modern languages, sciences and maths at Higher level, figures published by the Scottish Qualifications Authority show.

Just 505 students entered Higher German in 2022 compared to 780 in 2020, while there were also significant falls in the numbers taking French and Spanish at Higher level.

Some 3165 pupils took Higher level French in 2020, with the figure dropping to 2500 this year. In 2020, a total of 2900 students entered Higher Spanish, with the number falling to 2465 this year.

The reasons for the significant falls in pupils taking modern languages at Higher level are not clear but the issue of availability of language teaching in schools was considered in a inquiry by Holyrood's education committee before the pandemic.

In 2019 a survey of teachers by the committee found languages were the most commonly mentioned subjects as having seen a

decline in uptake in the previous five years.

Experts had previously raised concerns over the drop in the number of school Higher language students warning low expertise in foreign languages could have a negative impact in terms of the economy with a declining number of Scots able to speak French, German and Spanish which may be helpful in winning business deals overseas.

The move also comes as the Scottish Government seek to expand its presence in mainland Europe with a network of hubs in cities such as Paris, Berlin and Brussels, with the key aim of taking the country back into the EU as an new independent member of the bloc.

Fewer pupils also entered Higher English in 2022 with the number declining to 34,025 this year, compared to 36,370 in 2020.

Sciences and maths also saw a fall in the number of pupils taking the subjects at Higher level over the past few years, the SQA figures revealed.

Higher maths saw 19,180 pupils enter in 2020 and 18,050 in 2022. In 2020, a total of 8390 pupils entered Higher level physics, while in 2022 the number fell to 8045.

Higher chemistry saw a drop of 10,040 pupils taking the subject in 2020 to 9565 this year. Higher biology saw a drop from 7430 in 2020 to 7,340. Overall there was a 3 per cent drop in students sitting Higher exams than in 2021.

However, despite the decrease some subjects saw more pupils entering.

Some 9,770 pupils took Higher modern studies, an increase from 9530 from the previous year and the number entering computing science at Higher rose from 3165 in 2020 to 3490 this year.

At National 5 level the nine most popular subjects were Modern Studies, English, History, maths, PE, Physics, chemistry, biology and applications of maths. Entries increased in all these subjects.

The most popular subjects at Higher level were biology, business management, chemistry, English, history, maths, modern studies, PE and physics.

Scottish Lib Dem education spokesman Willie Rennie said: “Fewer languages taught limits young people’s opportunities, hits the economy and hardly demonstrates an ambition for Scotland to be outward looking. 

“Similarly with STEM subjects there are enormous opportunities for Scotland to be a world leader. 

“We have a tremendously talented group of young people, but they will never achieve their potential when there is a shortage of teachers to aid and guide them and ignite that love of science.

"By failing to recruit enough trainee teachers in these key subjects the Scottish Government is setting the country up for decades of failure. 

“Scottish Liberal Democrats would give young people better access to expert teachers in STEM subjects by bringing back principal teachers for each of them and for each science."

The Scottish Government have been approached for comment.

“As with so much in education, it is time the Scottish Government got its act together. The pace of change has been glacial, we need an action plan within a tight timescale to tackle these issues.”