Books | The GCSE books gone with Gove

As of next year, ‘foreign’ texts will no longer be studied at GCSE level as part of a call by the now ex-Education Secretary, Michael Gove, for more works by British authors to be studied in schools. The backlash against these reforms has been considerable, with Labour labelling the changes as ‘backward-looking’, and angry Twitter users hitting back with #getgovereading. With Gove gone, students may feel some respite has finally come. But are the changes he has left in his wake really all bad? LSi takes a look at what’s in, and what’s been kicked out of the new curriculum.

On the way out

#1. To Kill a Mockingbird
This Pulitzer-winning sixties classic by American author Harper Lee follows the struggles of a white lawyer, Atticus Finch, in representing a black man against the charge of raping a white girl.

Does it deserve to be on the curriculum?
Absolutely. Dealing with issues of rape and racial discrimination in the deep South, this novel provides an accessible insight into world history, as well as promoting the values of tolerance and open-mindedness, effectively killing two educational birds with one literary stone.

#2. Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck’s 1930s novella describes the tragedy which befalls two friends, George and Lennie, whilst trying to achieve their dream of owning their own piece of land.

Does it deserve to be on the curriculum?
Like Harper Lee’s novel, Of Mice and Men is a source of historical understanding of the Great Depression era of America, as well as challenging social taboos through its inclusion of a mentally disabled protagonist. It has been that argued that both of these novels have been ‘over done’ in schools, but surely this is a sign that we should re-examine how they are taught, rather than an excuse for their exile.

Coming in

#1. Anita and Me
This debut novel from Brit comedian Meera Syal is a coming-of-age story focussing on the friendship of Meena, a young British Punjabi girl, and her next-door neighbour, Anita.

Does it deserve to be on the curriculum?
Yes. By reflecting the multicultural population of today’s Britain, Anita and Me provides a breath of fresh air to the new regime, which is largely dominated by older, more traditional texts.

#2. Great Expectations
Charles Dickens’s 500 plus page blockbuster is a Victorian classic, documenting the transformation of an orphan boy, Pip, into a gentleman in the face of social adversity and a succession of antagonists.

Does it deserve to be on the curriculum?
Whilst Great Expectations is indisputably a great feat of literature, it may prove less than inspiring for its 13-16 year old readers. The complexities of its language and Dickens’s elaborate writing style makes the novel rather heavy-going, which may result in putting all but the keenest students off.

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