Closing Book on Literature Won't Help Children Do Better

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 8, 2017 | Go to article overview

Closing Book on Literature Won't Help Children Do Better


WE like to think literature matters in Wales. We are a nation in which writing is so central to our sense of self we literally crown our finest poets.

We use literature not just to explore our own identity but to project our cultural confidence to the wider world.

Year-long centenary celebrations of Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl made headlines across the globe and brought creative and economic benefits to Wales.

We are the hosts of the greatest book festival on the planet and love words so much we build a national arts centre and write a giant sentence on - In These Stones Horizons Sing.

But do you know what? A seismic change in Welsh education has slipped through that suggests we don't actually care about literature at all.

This week I was astounded to learn that GCSE English Literature is no longer compulsory in Wales.

The subject that shaped my entire world view and continues to enrich my life every day has been removed from the measure of a school's performance in GCSE qualifications. In practice this means many Welsh schools are only entering their brightest pupils for GCSE Eng Lit while some have even culled it altogether.

The poet Patrick Jones, for example, has described the situation in his son's comprehensive school where only the "higher" English sets are taking the exam this year, denying almost two thirds of pupils the access to potentially life-changing texts.

In a series of passionately argued polemics, teacher Rajvi Glasbrook Griffiths - literacy leader at Glan Usk School in Newport - has outlined the damaging impact removing universal access to literature could have on social mobility.

She also points out narrowing children's access to the power of words is ultimately about the crunching of numbers in Wales' stats-driven education system.

Devaluing English Literature gives schools a means to raise their pass rates.

As Rajvi writes: "Unfortunately, international PISA test results regularly rank Wales at the bottom of the UK for educational standards and, as a result, Welsh schools are under pressure to improve results.

"The latest quick fix being tried out is removing English literature from the measure of a school's performance in GCSE qualifications. "This is a crude numbers game, generated by hapless data-driven thinking.

"It's assumed that entering pupils for less-challenging GCSEs might increase the pass rate, especially among children in receipt of free school meals.

"The logic goes that, with better results, more youngsters can go on to higher education, and schools in Wales, which are increasingly battered by the media, can be reported to be improving. It may, some claim, even help close the deprivationattainment gap, which is a key priority for the Welsh government. "But this is misguided. Not only would this plan be a case of moving the goalposts, it would take the intellectually and emotionally enriching aspects of education out of the picture.

"The deprivation gap in Wales can't be reduced by GCSE results alone, and at some point that quickwin grade at the cost of real learning and understanding will catch up with pupils.

"You can't raise standards or boost wealth by putting books further out of the reach of young people."

It's a debate that goes to the very core of what education should be. Pupils of all abilities should have the opportunity to engage with literature, not just the ones keeping their schools in the right colour rating zone with their A*-C grades.

Those of us who feel so strongly about Eng Lit access for all are not middle-class Michael Gove-types banging on about the fact no-one knows their iambic pentameter from their elbow any more or are incapable of reciting The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner verbatim.

The really elitist approach is presuming some kids can only be exposed to the "literature" of magazines and adverts rather than the most powerful, compelling and lifeenhancing stories, drama and poetry humankind has produced. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Closing Book on Literature Won't Help Children Do Better
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.