New A-level to feature Russell Brand and Dizzee Rascal

Russell Brand’s testimony to MPs and an interview with Dizzee Rascal will be A-level texts, as part of a new English language and literature A-level.

Russell Brand’s views on UK drugs policy, a Jeremy Paxman interview with the rapper Dizzee Rascal and the book of the Oscar-winning film Twelve Years a Slave are amongst a raft of contemporary works selected by the OCR exam board as set texts.

The new syllabus is a result of Michael Gove’s determination to see more evidence of pupils’ thinking skills and creative ability, as part of his A-level reforms. The Independent reports that the new texts will be studied alongside more traditional A-level works, such as Shakespeare’s plays and Samuel Pepys’ diaries.

The DfE is harshly critical of the OCR’s plans: “Schools should be aware that if they offer this rubbish in place of a proper A-level, then pupils may not get into good universities,” a spokesman said. “It is immensely patronising to young people to claim that they will only engage with English language and literature through celebrities such as Russell Brand.”

OCR claims that the syllabus meets the latest Ofqual and DfE guidelines.  Hester Glass, its subject specialist for English language and literature, said: “Historically, English language and literature A-level has lacked a clearly defined identity. By creating a new model with a linguistic approach to literary texts, we aim to set a new gold standard to transform the A-level into a more valuable, distinctive qualification.”

Do you think the new A-level will be a ‘gold standard’ or merely ‘rubbish’? Share your views with the Eteach community!

3 thoughts on “New A-level to feature Russell Brand and Dizzee Rascal

  1. Due to the ‘progressive teaching’ mentality and the scrapping of Grammar schools it is no wonder why British state schools are so lacking in subjects and examinations of intellectual rigour and challenging subject matter. The above article is an example of the so called contemporary education which students can relate to and also pass exams with ease, no wonder why there is a problem of inflated grades and a dumbed down curriculum, far too child centred where independent learning is the order of the day.

  2. Blimey Mizuno, suggest you check your own command of English grammar rules before criticising the current system!
    Frankly by the time students opt to study at ‘A’ level they should have already reached a high level ‘command’ standard of the English language….. QED

  3. This is an important issue, and the answer to the question of whether it’s a good idea depends on whether you are trying to teach Language or Literature (in Sri Lanka where I taught, they are two entirely separate A-level subjects – I’m not sure about the U.K. In the USA in high schools, they are generally separate semester courses.)

    In Language, the objective is to teach the Four Skills of Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. So any work -contemporary or traditional – that will interest and engage students, is well written, and can help teach these skills is fine. But the texts should be CHALLENGING, not too easy. The IGSE English text, with lots of contemporary material, that I taught to my Muslim students in Sri Lanka was a joke to them – it was so easy for them after having completed the far more challenging local syllabus! It also did not include enough long works with difficult vocabulary words and sentence structure that helped students develop a longer attention span.

    The A-level General English book that I taught to Sri Lankan students from 2000-2009 was just superb – it was nicely designed and laid out like a magazine, with colourful pages and an accompanying cassette tape for pronunciation, with contemporary appeal, and had a lot of practical focus on skills like job interviews and report writing. However, the texts were also challenging and high level, and the book had plenty of grammar exercises and lessons and advanced vocabulary words (more advanced for these 2nd-language students than many American high school seniors study, even for the village students!) So the Department of Education in the U.K. should take a look at this and maybe design something similar.

    As far as A-level Literature, on the other hand, I think it’s extremely important to stick to traditional texts (with contemporary ones added only if they are also agreed to be significant literary works). Literature students are not only learning skills, but cultural and moral values and history as part of their currculum. A literature curriculum should have a balanced mix of prose and poetry and drama (songs could also be included if deemed valuable in a literary way, as that would interest the students!). It should have a mix of works by men and women and from different historical periods. Also, in today’s society, where global literacy is important, if students take only one literature course, it should be a World Literature course, including works from the U.K., USA, India, Australia, and South Africa and works in translation as well. A-level students should, of course, take courses in literature from each of these countries. The very challenging O-level World Literature syllabus in Sri Lanka is a superb example and model for the U.K. and the U.S.A.!

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