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Edexcel French A2 - Unfair Literature and The Arts Question (6FR04)

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Le_Jardinier, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. A question for others whose students sat the 6FR04 paper on Thursday.
    The Question was << Evaluez l'importance du milieu social dans l'oeuvre que vous avez &eacute;tudi&eacute;e>>
    Leaving aside the overly nuanced phrasing, I want to ask whether others who had prepared texts which are essentially philosophical in nature found this question wholly unreasonable.
    I had prepared my students for L'Etranger, and for Social and Cultural Setting, had prepared them on the historical, biographical and philosophical context of the novel - all of which were precluded from inclusion by the use of the <<dans>> in the question. It seems to me that the relevance of the social milieu in the text for L'Etranger is negligeable in terms of the work's meaning - this indeed is the one of the principal criticisms of the text. It occurs to me that anyone who had prepared Fin de Partie, En Attendant Godot or similar plays by Ionesco, say would have found the question impossible to answer short of a "clever clever" rejection of the question's central premise - surely not what was intended.
    Given the repeated assurances that a general and universally applicable question would be set, I was livid upon seeing the paper.
    I would be very interested in the views of anyone else whose students sat the paper, those who studied philosophical works in particular, and especially anyone who sought clarifications from Edexcel prior to the exam and has anything on record which would support a complaint.

  2. This just goes to prove the point that it is impossible to examine literature with a general question and no set text. By giving schools the chance to study whatever text they want for A2, the exam board is playing with children's futures; it is impossible to have a one size fits all question and I sympathise with you.
    AQA and Edexcel have a lot to answer for - have a look at WJEC and CCEA specs for A2 - they have set literature and it is a lot easier to teach and for candidates to answer a question on a set text.
  3. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Our board is AQA and they set (for the French author) what looked to me quite universal and generally applicable questions: one involved choosing a character, another involved comparing two characters.the AQA German questions were also fine.
    The history questions were also appropriate. I also liked the look of the cinema questions.
    I agree that the Edexcel question is careless, to say the least. My candidates who studied La Peste would have had trouble with that one. Was that the only one on offer?
    I'm not sure I agree that this invalidates the principle of AQA's and Edexcel's approach. What I do find odd still is that there are no marks for cultural knowledge, so a candidate could, in theory, write well-structured and coherent nonsense and still get a good mark.
    The problem I had with the Welsh board is that, as I recall, they had a set list of texts which gave the teacher less freedom.
  4. I would agree that the principle is not necessarily invalidated; In my view, however, it is fraught.
    In answer to your question, only one question was offered on Literature and the Arts, so my students had no choice.
    I maintain that such a question would be unanswerable if one took En Attendant Godot as the text for study, which again, in my view, invalidates this year's exam if not the principle behind it. When Edexcel first proposed this specification a number of teachers present expressed concerns about this approach, and we were assured that questions would be general and open in nature. In reality, it seems they were far more interested in dismissing our concerns than ensuring a fair examination for students.

  5. Even if it isn't impossible, it is dangerously reductive and risks a real lack of parity of experience for students.
    I fully agree that the board is playing with children's futures - and I fear that my most diligent and able students who understood clearly the implication of the question will suffer the most.
    I won't speculate here as to why such a question might have passed Edexcel's vetting process, lest I say something I later regret.
  6. My heart went out to my students when I saw what they'd been asked to write on; we did l'Etranger too, and I feel they were well prepared for a variety of fair questions regarding

    ? different characters
    ? key themes/issues
    ? social and cultural setting
    ? styles/techniques employed

    - but not this!

    They could all show evidence that they could 'analyse the research that they have undertaken, give their opinions and justify them' - but how could they do so in answer to this particular question?

    We've already moved over to AQA with the current Year 12 - I'm not convinced it's better, but it can't be worse.
  7. I so agree! I have been extremely sceptical about this aspect of Unit 4 all year. To me, it always seemed bizarre to assume a 'one size fits all' question would work for the vast range of French literature and cinema. Does anyone know how to initiate the complaints prcedure? I also have an issue with the requirement that a bibliography list cannot be taken into the exam. Why should the diligent student be forced to MEMORIZE the sources they have used?!!!
  8. We too are very sceptical at my school. What concerns us is that the examiners will need to know an infinite range of texts if they are to be fair to all candidates - do we really think that the examiners are going to receive a script, think 'oh, I don't know that book, I'd better read it before I mark the exam'? The way we have got round this is to choose texts that were on the old syllabus and which were accessible for all the criteria listed in the specification - not an easy task, actually. Can anyone tell me why a prescribed list is such a bad idea? It has worked for over 50 years on the A-Level syllabuses, so it can't be all that bad. I also beleive that our top linguists are being badly short-changed by having to only study one book for the whole year. I can remember not so long ago doing three (answering in English). Even two (curriculum 2000) with answers in the target language was better than what we have now. And don't get me going on the lack of a listening paper at A2!
  9. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I agree with your remark on lack of listening test. That was enough of a reason to reject that board when we decided to opt for AQA.
    Re prescribed texts, well, I recall in the past looking at such a list and finding little that appealed to me so I welcome the freedom we now have with most boards. True, we do fewer books these days, but we do other things instead e.g. different cultural topics, more listening, maybe more oral work etc. When we used to do much more lit it was to prepare students for university courses which strongly featured literature. Those days are gone and I believe it is good that we focus on a wider range of areas.
  10. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    Steve's comments are a useful reminder of why A level specifications moved away from a predominance of set texts-particularly some of the more way out ones like Djinn by Robe-Grillet bemused most of the students. There are some interesting questions to be raised about the choice of text to be studied where you do stay with or include literature.
    On www.alevelfrench.com we are just finishing off a teaching guide to Un Sac de Billes by Jo Joffo which several people on the forum have referred to. I used to do a vocab list for novels we studied and would do it fairly haphazardly-with electronic dictionaries- it's much quicker and I've done it very thoroughly for Un Sac de Billes teasing out the right nuances of vocab and idioms. The vocab for Un Sac de Billes runs to about 150 pages/50 in three columns and brings in:-
    most foods, parts of the body, transport, means of locomotion, nuances of fear, every type of action known to man and a plethora of other fields of vocab. Surely by studying a book which so comprehensively covers what you might call general vocabulary the student is getting into the language more than by imbibing the newsworthy areas such as the social issues and the environment.
    I feel strongly that tackling a novel is the key to getting really into the language and building up the kind of resilence needed to tackle language learning nearer to native speaker level hence the type of guides we are producing which are designed to make it easier for the more average student to access some of the more popular texts.

  11. I contacted the "Expert" at Edexcel in the first instance with a detailed account of why I felt it was not a legitimate question in light of what is in the specification, for the attention of the Chief Examiner as well. It has since been forwarded to Complaints@Edexcel.com - I am still awaiting a formal acknowledgement, however.
    I would encourage you to complain too - some pressure needs to be brought to bear. The question does not do what the spec promises and in choosing to interpret Social and Cultual Setting as inherently diegetic without any prior indication of this being the case, the examiners have fundamentally disadvantaged any students whose texts do not neatly conform to this narrowed criterion.

  12. spsmith45 -
    I agree that there is a debate to be had about why we study literature, and I have no problem in principle with allowing a free choice of text. However, if we are to offer such a choice, the board have no right to narrow the focus of an area to be studied by virtue of a subjective interpretation without prior warning. "Social and Cultural Setting" is not inherently internal, and a cursory topography of 20th Century French Literature ought to have revealed to them many examples where such an interpretation would constrict possible student answers or, worse still, preclude them.
    It seems to me that a straightforward question (as was had in German, Italian and Spanish) such as "Evaluez l'importance du contexte de l'oeuvre que vous avez &eacute;tudi&eacute;e" would have provided a level playing field and the opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge as well as producing essays across the full range of the mark scheme.
    Again, I won't speculate as to why this path was not taken, other than to say I hope it was merely incompetence.
  13. <font color="#0000ff" face="Arial">Your feedback is useful as we prepare for the first awarding of this new unit. </font><font color="#0000ff" face="Arial"></font><font color="#0000ff"><font face="Arial">Indeed, any specific complaints of this nature from Edexcel centres should be addressed to </font>complaints@edexcel.com so that assessment colleagues can investigate and respond appropriately (More information is available on the complaints procedure via the following link: http://www.edexcel.com/aboutus/contact-us/complaints/Pages/home.aspx)</font>
  14. SubjectAdvisor,

    is this response in an official capacity?

  15. . I am concerned at the way in which the OCR A2 essay questions are framed as they seem to require pretty detailed understanding of what is going on in France. One question asked candidates to consider whether the consequences of unemployment in FRANCE are totally negative. Another asked who in France has benefitted most from technological advances: teachers or pupils? Bear in mind that although assessment of cultural knowledge has been removed at Alevel ,if candidates do not give concrete examples from a target langauge country then they have a limit of 4/10 I believe on the mark for relevance. Can I please hear from any others out there who share my view or who can point me in the direction of how best to prepare our pupils?
  16. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Totally agree. They've cocked up and this needs to be recognised at standardisation. How did the question get through?

  17. I agree entirely with you. Our students studied Joffo's "Le Sac de Billes" and we feel that the question was inappropriate . Evaluating the importance of the "milieu social" in this book was very difficult as it not at any time a focus in the book. One might say that the students would have had to show that it had no importance but this gave them no opportunity to show their skills of analysis or how much they had unserstood the book. It certainly is not a question which fits "all" books as we were led to believe. We are very unhappy about this as we feel none of our students CAN get a good mark which is most unfair.
  18. Same here with Un sac de billes, I couldn't agree more... To be honest I am still thinking what the "right" answer would be to such a question.
    I have just sent a mail of complaint to Edexcel (if I were you I'd do just the same, I think they have to seriously account for this). This is what the answer is so far:
    "To respond in full the French Assessment team need to investigate your concerns and monitor candidates&rsquo; actual responses in the exam. They also need to bring it to the attention of the senior examiners who contribute to the final grade boundary decisions for French.
    Your comments, together with any others we receive about the paper, will also be considered by the these senior examiners when grade boundaries are determined at the end of the marking period. Please be assured that you will receive a reply from the French Assessment team after grade boundaries have been awarded."

    So, we are playing with grade boundaries now, when it could have saved everyone so much frustration to just formulate a decent question. I am really curious if other colleagues who did other texts or a film were actually happy with this question.
  19. Outrageous situation. Possible solutions to avoid this sort of problem in future:
    i) set text(s) with a specially written question (only one needed per text)
    ii) a choice of general questions from three or four (but no set texts)
    Option 1 is the most desirable - it's ridiculous really to expect an examiner to mark an essay on a book he/she hasn't read.

  20. We too were astounded by this unfair question. It is interesting to note that many replies have interpreted 'milieu social' as social context (which is how I initially interpreted it and suspect the examiners meant it to be). However, native speakers within my department assure me it really means 'social class' and refers to middle class, working class etc. We too had studied 'Un Sac de billes' and the first interpretation of 'milieu social' is just about possible if the students wrote about the position of the Jews in occupied France (i.e. interpreting it as social issues). However, if interpreted as social class the novel does not lend itself at all to the question.
    Quite clearly the examiners will have to accept a wide range of interpretations of the badly phrased question and will have to mark favourably - after all, the mistake was clearly on their part.I'm just pleased we had not put all our eggs in one basket and had also studied the film 'La Haine' which did lend itself better to the question.

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