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Leading article: Choices for the future

Countering the bad news about the continuing decline of traditional modern languages is this year's sharp rise in the number of those taking maths and the sciences. These subjects have seen a 6 per cent increase or more in entries – significantly more in the case of chemistry. As for university applications, physics is back in the top 10 subjects for the first time in almost 10 years.

Several factors may explain the change, from official encouragement to a growing awareness among pupils of the greater job opportunities that may be open to mathematicians and scientists. The recent increase in maths and science programmes on television, presented by such gifted popularisers as Marcus du Sautoy and Brian Cox, has surely played a role, too: conveying the excitement of these fields more graphically than routine school syllabuses often do.

Another subject where there has been a gratifying rise in entries is Chinese, albeit from a low base. Perhaps, at last, Britons are rejecting the stereotype that we are no good at languages or maths, and taking a harder-headed approach to the link between study and the job market. Both would be welcome.