Structural issues surround scottish studies

23rd September 2011 at 01:00

With reference to your report on Brian Wilson's adverse reaction to the proposed Scottish studies course (9 September), press and TV coverage of the initial announcement last month was contradictory. One report suggested it was to be compulsory; another said it was to be optional.

If "Scottish studies" is to be an SQA coursequalification for post- general education it could work as an option, but I don't see how it can be made compulsory without major controversy and upheaval in terms of subject choice and distribution of staff and resources.

If it is an option, there are structural issues in terms of how it might be taught and by whom (not insuperable) and a significant proportion of Scottish content would have to be retained in other subject courses. In the recent changes to Higher history, a separate Scottish history Higher was rejected in favour of substantially-enhanced Scottish content in Higher history, to avoid the artificial separation of Scottish history from wider historical contexts and the danger of its ending up as a minority subject within a minority subject.

If the suggestion now is that compulsion will apply to the years of general education (P1 to S3), this might also prove problematic and could lead to an unhelpful separation of Scottish from other wider contexts and content.

My understanding of the excellent introductory speech by Alan Riach (Glasgow University professor of Scottish literature) at a recent Education Scotland meeting to discuss the shape of a related web resource called "Studying Scotland", was that in his admired New Zealand model, for the purposes of general education, the teaching of local and national history and literature (including Maori) were integrated within the wider contexts of English language and world literature and history, rather than having a separate compulsory school subject called "New Zealand studies".

Isn't it this integrated approach that is being encouraged by Curriculum for Excellence over the period of general education? A well-designed, outward-looking "Studying Scotland" website would be invaluable for this, as well as for older students opting for Scottish studies.

While Scottish studies could be a viable option for senior pupils and adults, it would be better - for educational and practical reasons - to stick to the path of ensuring substantial coverage of Scottish content within wider subject area content in P1-S3, rather than trying to make it a compulsory subject in its own right.

Duncan Toms, Whitton Drive, Glasgow.

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