Defence of modern studies

22nd March 2013 at 00:00

The Modern Studies Association (MSA) wishes to respond to your recent article headed "Young Scots: political education is 'rubbish'" (15 March).

First, we are deeply concerned about the premise of your article, which is that political education is best delivered through PSE. We would argue that, as subject specialists, modern studies staff are always best placed to provide political education within the secondary curriculum.

The concern regarding political literacy is not new. This issue was highlighted through the Social Studies 3-18 Curriculum Impact report published by Education Scotland last September.

While that report noted the popularity of modern studies, now the seventh most popular Higher in Scotland, it also clearly raised a concern that in about 20 per cent of schools there is no modern studies specialist, and that this is an issue for the coverage of experiences and outcomes in the curriculum as well as development of political literacy.

Never before has the general concern over the lack of modern studies been noted so clearly in an official report. On page 16, it also raises concern over curricular models which reduce a child's timetable to one social subject at the end of S1, stating that "it is not always evident that young people's entitlement to a BGE (broad general education) is being met".

At a time when the issue of voting at 16 has placed political literacy high on the agenda, it is important to note the key contributions of modern studies specialists within this. We believe strongly that political literacy will only be addressed effectively through modern studies delivery in every school.

We do need to consider the delivery of political education beyond the point where subject choices have been narrowed, but would again argue that political literacy is still best delivered by expert staff. Modern studies specialists delivering additional lessons to senior pupils could also ensure continued coverage beyond the broad general education.

Your article and the survey suggest that young people valued our subject and the contribution which it makes, stating "the only place in schools in which politics, democracy and citizenship were effectively taught was modern studies". The solution seems simple. We need more consistent delivery of modern studies in every secondary school.

Modern studies also delivers coverage of many other key issues, including rights and responsibilities, global citizenship and inequalities in Scottish society. It has a leading role to play in educating young voters and encouraging students to be effective contributors and responsible citizens. It allows them to explore the knowledge base they need in order to participate effectively and provides the skills and confidence to do so. It makes strong contributions across the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence.

We would also like to highlight the fact that this particular survey represents the views of only 119 people, which is a very limited sample.

Ruth Sharp, chairperson, Modern Studies Association.

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