Scots literature question will be part of Higher English in 2014/15

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    Education Secretary Michael Russell has announced that all Scottish pupils will learn at least one Scottish text under a new education Higher English requirement.

    The move means that every candidate sitting the exam paper from 2014/15 “will answer at least one question” on a Scottish novel, play or poem.

    The changes are intended to ensure future generations of young Scottish people grow up with a better understanding of their culture and literary heritage.

    The announcement confirms the Scottish Government’s acceptance of the recommendation from the Scottish Studies Working Group which proposes that Higher English include a specific element on Scottish texts from 2014/15 onwards.

    At the moment, teaching Scottish texts is not compulsory and is entirely at a teacher’s discretion – many teachers focus on those elements which are certain to be part of a pupil’s Higher English exam such as Shakespeare. 

    Since Scotland, unlike England, does not have a compulsory national curriculum and as It was also thought important for school staff to follow the interests of pupils as opposed to teaching prescribed texts. – Scottish texts can be largely or completely ignored resulting many Scottish pupils lacking exposure to some of the greatest Scottish writers.

    Mr Russell said: “Our country has a rich and world-renowned literary tradition and it is fitting to be able to make this announcement on Burns Night, when we celebrate the national bard.

    “Scotland’s contribution to literature is marked down the generations, Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson have provided work that has lasted the test of time, along with contemporary writers like Irvine Welsh and Liz Lochhead.

    “We want our children and young people to have the chance to learn about our literary tradition and to inspire the future generations of Scottish writers.”

    The announcement follows the announcement from the Government’s Scottish Studies Working Group, which included Scotland’s Makar, Lochhead.

    Scotland’s Makar Liz Lochhead, who is the national poet, said: “In common with just about every English teacher, academic, and certainly every fellow writer that I’ve consulted informally for their opinion, I am delighted that Scotland seeks to ensure that some Scottish texts are included in the literature taught in our schools. And that it will be a requirement to answer an examination question on at least one of these.

    “Remembering that such texts may be in English, Scots-English, Scots, or any mixture of these, may come from any historical period, including the present, and are certainly not required to reflect a chauvinistic or uncritical view of Scottish society, it can only benefit our future citizens to so engage with their own culture.”

    Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, welcomed the move.

    “It is a good idea that pupils learn more Scottish literature because it gives them access to the wide culture of Scotland without limiting them to a particular text,” she said.

    “There are many other elements to the Higher English exam which can be completed without any reference to a Scottish text.”

    The Scottish Qualifications Authority, the country’s exam body, is to take forward the development of the plan.