Fears that Higher Still will rob subjects of richness

12th December 1997 at 00:00
I was interested to read your report of the letter from the depute general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland to the senior chief inspector regarding the assessment arrangements for Higher Still (TESS, November 28). It is clear that many secondary teachers still feel, despite all the (rather bland) reassurances from the Higher Still Development Unit that the programme will consist of assessment-led courses. I am an English teacher; and I fear that all the enrichment will gradually evaporate from my subject area.

I think that we should not lose sight of the fact that this system of internally-assessed units was given such importance within Higher Still in the first place because of the Scottish Vocational Education Council and those who had a vested interest in it and all its works. The SCOTVEC system of assessment (which is all the module descriptors ever were, despite recent attempts to embellish them) has never really sat comfortably with the teaching of English in secondary schools - and I speak as one who has been involved in the teaching of modular courses for some years now. From the beginning, I have been aware, as have my colleagues, of the tendency of module courses to be driven by assessment and reassessment. This is in spite of the fact that we put the emphasis on making the courses as stimulating and worthwhile as possible.

There are other drawbacks to the system. SCOTVEC was a creature of the Thatcher era. It is time that Brian Wilson took a long hard look at the influence of SCOTVEC-based ideas within Higher Still and asked himself whether a system of assessment designed basically for the workplace is really what is required in preparing students for the highest levels of academic study.

ROBERT SIM Norstane Lerwick Shetland

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