Monday, March 20, 2006

Poet Laureate calls for change to English exams

The BBC reports from the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders, that Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, has called for the English literature curriculum to be updated,saying that books like Lord of the Flies appear on the exam syllabus year after year, when other books, such as Monica Ali's Brick Lane, could be used in English lessons to reflect the diversity of today's society. He also noted that when he was studying for A-level English, his teacher encouraged students to read widely around the set texts but he has noticed in his visits to schools, that such wide-ranging reading is no longer happening. He says that "Pupils are being taught in a 'boxy' way - it's a means to an end to pass [exams]."

This is something I noticed when I did my English degree a few years ago; I found that because I hadn't come straight GCSEs and A Levels, I had read far more widely than the 18 and 19 year olds in my group. Before I started my degree I had expected to be at a disadvantage as I had been reading whatever I fancied of plays, poetry, novels and essays for the preceding 6 years, but the exact opposite was true. I hope that the exam boards and schools' leaders take notice of Motion's remarks, because I don't think we're doing students any favours by depriving them of the chance to read widely.

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