Education secretary controversially removes American classics in favour of an almost exclusively British study.
News has broken today that the Education Secretary Michael Gove has dropped a slate of classic American literature from the English literature GCSE syllabus.
Broken by The Sunday Times, the report states that Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and more have been axed in a move to make students focus on more works from British writers such as Jane Austen and William Shakespeare.
One of the UK’s biggest examining boards, OCR, spoke of the decision. “Of Mice and Men, which Michael Gove really dislikes, will not be included. It was studied by 90 per cent of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past.” They continued, “Michael Gove said that was a really disappointing statistic. In the new syllabus 70-80 per cent of the books are from the English canon.”
As seems to be the case for most of Gove’s reforms, the decision has received heavy backlash, with academics fearing that the limited literature will deter students from studying the subject.
“It’s a syllabus out of the 1940s and rumour has it Michael Gove, who read literature, designed it himself,” said Bethan Marshall, a senior lecturer in English from King’s College. “Schools will be incredibly depressed when they see it.”
This follows the equally controversial decision to remove coursework from the English literature GCSE, with the Department for Education telling exam boards that students will instead sit two exams at the end of year 11.
From 2015, students sitting OCR examinations will have to study a pre-20th century novel, Romantic poetry and a Shakespearian play.
In response to the criticism, the DfE released a statement. “In the past, English literature GCSEs were not rigorous enough and their content was often far too narrow. We published the new subject content for English literature in December,” they said. “It doesn’t ban any authors, books or genres. It does ensure pupils will learn about a wide range of literature, including at least one Shakespeare play, a 19th century novel written anywhere and post-1914 fiction or drama written in the British Isles.”
They continued on to pass the buck to examining boards, saying that it is their responsibility to design the GCSE, albeit within their strict guidance. “That is only the minimum pupils will be expected to learn. It is now up to exam boards to design new GCSEs, which must then be accredited by the independent exams regulator Ofqual.”