Scots literature deserves a place in schools

THE report that the EIS AGM voted to “oppose the Scottish Government’s decision to include a compulsory question on Scottish texts in the new Higher English exam” suggests the decision arose from “nationalist fervour” and ministerial “diktat” (News, 10 June)

THE report that the EIS AGM voted to “oppose the Scottish Government’s decision to include a compulsory question on Scottish texts in the new Higher English exam” suggests the decision arose from “nationalist fervour” and ministerial “diktat” (News, 10 June)

Actually, all it does is bring Scotland into line with practically every other European nation, including England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will help ensure a place is found for the literature of the cultures, including Scotland’s newer communities, in which pupils are growing up. They can find their homes, communities and voices to have literary worth, and that literature can happen here too.

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The current situation, where pupils in Scotland may progress through their entire school careers without ever studying Scottish writing, because its inclusion is described in guidelines as something that “should” – but need not – happen, is educationally harmful. It is to help avoid such damaging outcomes that for over 40 years, with others, the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, of which I am president, has continuously supported Scottish teachers in using Scottish texts with their students.

The SQA has conducted an extended consultation on the issue of a compulsory Scottish literature question. Out of this, not “diktat”, the minister’s decision has emerged. Any coherent curriculum and its assessment mechanisms need to balance the need for studying and passing on the knowledge and culture of a national community with the need to nurture and enhance children and young people’s creativity and individual learning choices.

These needs are not mutually exclusive and I am sure the EIS, whose desire to support the study of Scottish literature is not in doubt, will recognise that the decision to include a mandatory Scottish question must be seen in that wider context.

Professor Ian Brown, Glasgow