Lack of modern studies 'short-changing pupils'

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
THE one in four secondary schools which are without modern studies departments were slated last week for short-changing their pupils.

John McTaggart, principal teacher of modern studies at Boroughmuir High in Edinburgh, led the attack, saying that pupils in these schools had no political education. "A school with a modern studies department is a healthier school," he said.

Speaking at a "democracy forum" on citizenship run by the Hansard Society Scotland, Mr McTaggart said he deplored the subject's name, coined in the 1960s, and claimed that it was often tagged along with classical studies as a "lesser subject".

The document on education for citizenship, drawn up by Learning and Teaching Scotland, did not make it clear who is to teach the subect, he continued. It required teachers with sound political literacy who are open-minded and objective. "Modern studies is about more than just teaching political facts. We are also teaching skills - to detect political bias and exaggeration and to develop a critical respect for empirical evidence."

Modern studies, Mr McTaggart said, had at times been more popular than history and geography. Law faculties, the police service and social work departments had stated that a Higher in the subject made a difference to the quality of students.

Brian Monteith, the Tories' education spokesman, said his own children in Edinburgh's Portobello High "very much enjoy the subject". It should be an enjoyable part of learning to become a good citizen.

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