A-level languages ditch literature

22nd August 2008 at 01:00
New modern language A-levels starting next month are dispensing with compulsory literature study.

The changes are among a raft of alterations in many subjects which, some teachers argue, contrast with government claims that A-levels are more stretching for high achievers.

OCR's current French exam forces pupils to answer questions on literature in the written section of their A2 exam. Its new A-level, starting in the new school year, removes literature study altogether in the writing paper. Instead, students are given the option to talk about a literary work of their choice in the speaking section of the AS exam.

The other two English exam boards' language exams also feature no compulsory study of novels or poetry.

A TES analysis of new exam specifications in science, English, languages and history calls into question ministers' claims that they will be more stretching, after the introduction of the A* grade. More unstructured questions are promised, with a greater emphasis on essay writing.

But the near absence of novels and poetry in the new language A-levels is one of several changes that critics think will make the exams more straightforward.

Terry Lamb, past president of the Association for Language Learning, said: "Challenging students does not necessarily have to involve literature study. Exams involving historical or political analysis, for example, could be just as stretching.

"However, if teachers who are motivated to teach literature are not getting that chance, I think that would be a shame."

A spokesman for OCR said that the changes were in line with Qualifications and Curriculum Authority stipulations, which said that students no longer had to demonstrate knowledge or understanding of French society.

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