Reconsider English skills

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
I would like to support Gill Sharp's plea for a different kind of GCSE syllabus.

In the dim and distant past, when there were GCE O-levels, the O-level in English language was just that.

It concentrated on comprehension and precis and on free writing. I am not asking to turn the clock back, but I am asking for it to be considered as an option.

I am not saying that a mixed English syllabus is not a good idea if one has two years to teach it and plenty of time to build in the skills of writing good English, but most of the further education world runs on one-year re-take programmes.

Our intake includes students who have already failed at this hurdle and feel beaten, or those who do not have English as a first language but nevertheless need to attain a grade C to get into medicine, engineering or other vocational courses.

What the workplace and the vocational training sector need from these students is that they should be able to read and analyse different kinds of documents, be able to select and interpret, and to express themselves in clear, grammatical English.

These skills are built into the syllabus, but unfortunately they become less important and time-consuming than getting students to comprehend the language of a Shakespeare play or to grasp the metaphoric language of a poem.

We in further education need an English language GCSE, and there are probably enough of us out here to justify one of the exam boards taking on this task as a syllabus option.

In this case, why not commission Gill Sharp to help design it, since she obviously knows what she is talking about?

Bobbie Stewart

87 Wantage Road

Reading

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