Success only comes to those who explore

18th March 2011 at 00:00

In his letter about the Cambridge IGCSE (11 March), Rob Miles conflated two subjects: English first language (paper 0500) and English literature (0486), which are certificated separately.

Neither syllabus is tied to a Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency template and this has several advantages, chief among them that teacher and learner are empowered to read and explore more widely than GCSE study permits.

In fact, it is almost impossible to achieve higher marks on a Cambridge IGCSE paper without having read widely and deeply - the aim, we believe, of any English teaching.

A qualification that helps students develop English language skills is just what is needed by many thousands of schools in the UK and around the world. Our experience is that a large number of schools co-teach this and English literature, with the result that their students are rigorously assessed on both.

In the UK, almost all schools offering Cambridge IGCSE English language are also preparing their students for English literature, providing assessment of both in a way that many English teachers in the maintained sector have wished to be able to do for years.

Mr Miles is correct that studying Shakespeare is not compulsory outside the UK, although our figures show that the vast majority of schools around the globe do choose to do so. Given the international context we work in, we prefer not to be overly prescriptive, but all UK state maintained schools are required to study Shakespeare for Cambridge IGCSE English literature.

Diane Palmer, Director, assessment services, University of Cambridge International Examinations.

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