Shakespeare and Saatchi go hand in hand

19th January 2007 at 00:00
With media driving many aspects of the modern world, the subject should be linked with English to create a new communications course in tune with our times, claim consultants

A MERGED English and media studies course, which would see pupils studying advertisements and films alongside Shakespeare, is being proposed for the forthcoming Curriculum for Excellence.

Media education consultant Rick Instrell and co-writer Gordon Liddell believe teaching the two subjects together is vital to keep both subjects exciting and relevant for Scottish youngsters.

The first elements of the proposed course were revealed last week by Mr Instrell at a training event in Glasgow. He called on Learning and Teaching Scotland to involve media teachers in developing the new curriculum.

"Media education should be part of everybody's education in Scotland," he said. "We are out of kilter with most of the advanced countries in the world - in Canada and Australia, media studies is up with English and art and design. Frankly, to claim we have a curriculum for the 21st century which doesn't mention the media is ludicrous."

The former media studies teacher began his teaching career in maths and ICT and left the classroom two years ago to become a consultant. Gordon Liddell is a former English teacher. Their paper last year, proposing merging the two subjects, has just been published in the Media Education Journal. It suggests the new subject be called communications and should encompass all language from grammar to text messaging, film and literature.

Both believe their plans for the new subject would bring children's enthusiasm and prior experience of media to their English studies.

"We started from opposing positions and we have ended up in the same place," said Mr Instrell. "We found we were doing exactly the same thing - there is no difference between media studies and English.

"Our proposal for a 3-18 media education plan involves moving image, print, audio, the web, poetry and verse, stories and novels, and discursive writing. Reading, writing and reflection can be taken through all the genres."

He believes their course would build on already commonly adopted practices such as asking pupils to create an advert, or report the plot of a novel in a mock newspaper article.

"To start off with, difficult poetry seems the wrong place to go - far better to start with adverts and the way they use language, and then move into a less familiar medium," he said.

"I don't see us being opposed to traditional English teaching, but to changing the pedagogy and then moving things on. Both subjects are part of the same language."

Mr Instrell said studying the media's different forms was pivotal to youngsters' understanding of today's world. "Media is the central way we get all our values, therefore it needs to be looked at," he said. "It is the engine of our social, political, economic and cultural lives.

"I have never had a complaint about media-related work from pupils - it is profoundly motivating in the classroom."

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