Scots Children Told: You Don't Need Grammar to Pass Your English Exam; EDUCATION CHIEFS RULE OUT PLAN TO IMPROVE PUNCTUATION

Daily Mail (London), March 17, 2006 | Go to article overview

Scots Children Told: You Don't Need Grammar to Pass Your English Exam; EDUCATION CHIEFS RULE OUT PLAN TO IMPROVE PUNCTUATION


Byline: GRAHAM GRANT

RADICAL reforms aimed at improving teenagers' punctuation have been vetoed by Scottish education chiefs - despite mounting evidence of a classroom literacy crisis.

South of the Border, GCSE English candidates will be tested on punctuation in revamped exams.

But the sweeping reforms have been ruled out in Scotland as 'unnecessary' - despite growing concern over children's poor literacy skills.

Last year, a report by Scottish examiners highlighted a 'surprising and rather alarming' lack of basic English skills among pupils.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Qualifications Authority, which produced the report, yesterday ruled out the need for a punctuation crackdown.

He said: 'We give credit to people on the basis of how well an idea is expressed and presented, so candidates do have to express ideas properly and in a grammatically correct way.

'There is an ongoing need for clarity of expression and for pupils to understand and use punctuation properly, but we do have a fundamentally different system in Scotland.' However, critics fear the examiners focus too much on how well pupils express themselves rather than the technical accuracy of their language.

As a result, some Scottish

universities are being forced to provide 'remedial' English classes for new students.

Professor Gordon Kirk, former dean of the education faculty and vice-principal at Edinburgh University, said teachers had to focus more on grammar.

He added: 'The overall quality of writing is dreadful. Hardly anyone - in society at large, not just in schools - adheres to the basic conventions of written English.' Professor Brian Boyd, an education expert at Strathclyde University, said : 'It's a worrying situation when 20 per cent of adults are insecure about literacy - but with the rise of the Internet and text messages, simply focusing more on teaching people about the apostrophe may not be enough. …

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