1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

What is turning students off studying English at A level?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jul 31, 2019.

  1. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    I wonder how much choice of A levels is influenced by perceived future job prospects. Maths and science subjects are seen as leading to a number of possible careers. At least half the A level chemistry students I have tutored over the years were doing it because it is an essential requirement if they want to study medicine rather than because of their love of chemistry. English doesn't have any obvious application apart from becoming an English teacher.
    Jamvic and afterdark like this.
  2. steely1

    steely1 Occasional commenter

    This is it. Certainly in the schools I've been teaching in in recent years, the relentless drive of STEM subjects has had an impact. I know STEM is sometimes appropriated by some schools as STEAM to accommodate the Arts, but that is too rare.

    As recently reported in The Guardian:

    Writing as an English teacher myself, I feel like we're fighting a curriculum and rising tide of students and parents who are intent on reducing English to a "by numbers" subject: "How many quotes do I need for this essay?" "How long is an acceptable length for this essay?" "Why do my marks never improve?" (in spite of continuous feedback) "Why haven't we analysed this word / line?" "The other classes have done so much more than us and have annotatations on all pages of their texts!" "P.E.E. P.E.E. P.E.E.".

    I still love teaching my subject but there are times when I just can't help but sigh.
    alex_teccy likes this.
  3. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    If it's any consolation teachers of STEM subjects are under constant pressure to have class discussions and give detailed written feedback because that's what English and humanities do.
    Jamvic, SundaeTrifle and blue451 like this.
  4. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    Oh we can go further than that...

    The curtains closed him off from the world, a symbolic barrier between his internal world and the external, a world he has consciously rejected. The blue represents nature and his desire to create an artificial reality in which he can dwell. Blue being tranquil it symbolises a search for tranquillity and a rejection of the chaotic world beyond.

    There we go
    alex_teccy and agathamorse like this.
  5. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    And we're told we have to do because we are the exemplar department leading the school forward in our detailed feedback. Uuurgfgfghhhhh...
  6. baitranger

    baitranger Senior commenter

    Has someone been preventing them from going into their local public library and taking out books? Do they have no books in the home? Of course the problem is deeper and more complex than a limited school curriculum. Most young people don't read books, and many rarely read anything other than a simple page on their phones. Their parents don't read and to many young people, reading a whole book on their own seems an impossible , extremely difficult and unpleasant task.
    Try giving them a simple vocabulary test and you may be surprised at the very limited number of words they know. How can someone read good novels when they don't know the meanings of a quarter of the words in the books?
    The problem is a product of the long term decline of UK education, general dumbing down, massive grade inflation and corruption in the system.
  7. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    I think I can help with another nugget! I taught A level Literature for many years. As tech evolved, interest in reading for pleasure has, I feel, waned. And yes, Gove’s meddling has really put them off. But another thing? Many 9f the top local private tutors won’t or can’t offer A level Lit, even if they enjoy it, because it goes against the sense of the business model for tuition. Much of tutoring, I have discovered, is the other side of the school looking glass...we work in the holidays, we start when school ends, we go over misunderstood or missed out topics. Now a lot of these kids really scraped through and think Lit is a doss. Some will have been spoon fed to puking point by teachers. Some just really struggle. They almost all have coursework. The critical theory and textual analysis is often too big a step up. Well...self- employed tutors cannot really read eight set texts per student and they don’t want to get roped into ‘helping them’ with their coursework either, plus the online essay helpers (forgers) supply that market....so there are the reasons, really.

    It is not hopeful. I worry that this generation are poorly read and struggle to infer, reason or analyse in convincing depth.

    Ah, Gove. You envisioned sunlight uplands of Blakean kiddies gambolling over the literary lawns of Defoe, Pope and Milton, but in reality, you turned an entire generation of demanding reading because you murdered when you dissected literary enthusiasm and reading for its own sake.
    Jamvic and alex_teccy like this.
  8. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    Perhaps English is suffering from colleagues who favour another subject portraying it an unappealing desert. As a maths teachers for decades I often hear negative comments about Mathematics. A lot of them from English teachers.
    alex_teccy likes this.
  9. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    The self justifying verbiage above is why many avoid English Literature.
    ScienceGuy likes this.
  10. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    When I taught DT and physics if there had been a interesting development in the technology/science community that I tried to engage my students with because I naively though that as they were studying the subject they would have some interest in it then the first thing I would hear was, 'Do we need to know this for the exams?'. Depressing.
  11. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Rumour has it that are in existence scraps of ancient Egyptian papyrus dating from many thousands of years BC that actually have this gag written on them in hieroglyphics. ;)
    phlogiston likes this.
  12. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    Sadly this attitude is all too common. Doing private tuition I do very occasionally get a student who is actually interested in the subject, not just what's in the exam. I even once had a year 10 pupil tell me he'd been reading about quantum chromodynamics. Luckily I did know enough to be able to answer his questions, although I certainly wouldn't claim to understand it properly.
    agathamorse and Shedman like this.
  13. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    Whenever I see people decry the phrase "Do I need to know this for the exams?", I always worry a little. Students being focussed on an aim and wishing to know how to do well is not a bad thing. Their futures literally depend on it.

    I also wonder about the English syllabus being the reason for the fall in numbers. The science syllabus has come off far worse from Gove's intervention, there are now whole modules which consist of nothing but rote learning dull facts and yet A-level numbers for science are rising. No science teacher would ever claim the current science syllabus is fun. Essentially other subjects fared much worse from Gove's tender mercies yet have coped far better.

    In my humble opinion it's because English is seen as less relevant to successful careers. STEM subjects are far more valuable in salary terms, the research varies hugely in the extra added value, but the difference is significant. If you have to pay for your degree you're going to look at the returns available. There's also the impact of careers advice, we have many visits from Russell Group universities and they tend to bang the drum for STEM. There's also the fact that STEM subjects open up a wider range of careers than most other A-levels and most careers advice from the government reflects this.

    I've also noticed anecdotally that students are far more savvy about researching job prospects and that it's not uncommon these days for students to look at where graduates end up five years down the line.

    I think at heart English needs to make a case for itself, not just to students but to universities and government who currently favour STEM subjects quite heavily.
    agathamorse and ScienceGuy like this.

Share This Page