Jaws and Braveheart: the new staples of Curriculum for Excellence English
GROWING numbers of school pupils are choosing to study films such as Braveheart and Gregory’s Girl rather than read books as part of their English coursework, according to examiners.
Publishing its annual assessment reports on this summer’s exams, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) expressed concerns about the ability of candidates to cope with reading tests in the Standard Grade exam, while noting an increase in the number of pupils writing essays on “media texts” as part of their English folio.
The folio, which is also part of the Higher course, requires Standard Grade pupils to submit two pieces of creative writing as well as three responses to texts. Overall, it makes up half a student’s marks in the reading and writing parts of the English course.
While two of the three responses must be written about pieces of literature, examiners said the popularity of media texts “continued to increase”.
Films studied by pupils this year included Titanic, Jaws, Stand by Me, The Truman Show, Braveheart, Gregory’s Girl and Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet.
The examiners also noted that many candidates tackling the Higher history paper did not have the language skills to deal with the essay question, while those studying modern studies did not understand the relationship between local councils and the Scottish Government.
Overall, however, examiners were positive about the way pupils tackled both Standard Grade and Higher English. They said some of the creative writing submitted by Higher candidates as part of the folio was of “exceptional quality”, with several awarded full marks.
However, they noted that some students were “lax” in their recording of sources for discursive pieces, often merely acknowledging “Wikipedia” or “the internet”.
Commenting on part of the Standard Grade English folio, the SQA report said: “There were relatively few imaginative responses to literature [as part of the critical essay element], and markers expressed concerns regarding the ability of candidates to fulfil the necessary reading criteria in these. The number of responses to media texts continues to increase.”
Markers were positive about the range of texts studied as part of the literature component, however, with William Shakespeare and novels including
Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies among the most
popular choices. In Higher history, the SQA welcomed the “good spread” of subjects studied this year, ranging from the medieval church to the Cold War.
Larry Flanagan, general-secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, said: “The criticisms raised in the principal examiners’ reports are not dissimilar to previous years and they reflect the relentless pressure teachers are under to ensure that candidates are able to pass the high-stake exams which they face at the end of an academic session.
“Curriculum for Excellence promised a move to a fairer and more encompassing assessment models, but, at this stage, English teachers remain unconvinced that this will happen.”
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