03 SES 06 B, Curriculum Renewal (Languages): Policy and Practice
During periods of curriculum, educational or qualifications reform, debates typically centre on establishing the fundamental skills and competencies that students should possess in different subject domains. Currently, England is undergoing a period of reform in secondary education, where significant changes to course content are to be introduced (e.g. Smith, 2013). This includes the reform of General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSE), the primary set of qualifications taken by 16-year-olds in England. GCSEs currently serve a range of purposes. For example, they are required to enable students to make a successful transition into the next educational level (Mehta, Suto, & Brown, 2012; Suto, 2012), to provide sufficient skills for later employment, and to form part of the accountability system of secondary schools.
When subject content is under review it is necessary to establish a framework to guide the parameters for change. This is particularly important in the subject of English, which is a compulsory subject in the curriculum of the United Kingdom, and a qualification in English is typically a prerequisite to enter Further Education post-16. There has been an ongoing debate about how English can be defined (Ofqual, 2012; Raban-Bisby, Brooks, & Wolfendale, 1995). This debate has permeated both Anglophone and non-Anglophone countries including New Zealand (Limbrick & Aikman, 2005), Australia (Edwards & Potts, 2008) and Germany (Gnutzmann, 2005).
Definitions of English cover many areas from the ‘aesthetic’ to the ‘functional’ and views have been polarised about where the emphasis should lie (Laugharne, 2007). For example, in recent years, the term ‘literacy’ has been used as a label for a skills framework that divides English into a set of four core competencies: reading, writing, and speaking and listening. This functional definition is in response to the demand for courses in English to prepare students for communication in the workplace and beyond, and has been criticised for narrowing the scope of English qualifications (Edwards & Potts, 2008). More ‘academic’ definitions of English place greater emphasis on personal growth and creativity (Cox, 1991), although this perspective has been criticised for being too broad to be useful in developing qualifications that need to serve multiple purposes.
When redeveloping educational courses or the curriculum, it is important to consider the views of multiple stakeholders, as they can play an essential role in establishing the educational framework from which the course is built. It is currently unclear what models of English as a subject are maintained by different stakeholders, and how these perspectives project onto their views on what content and skills should be taught to 16-year-old students. The present study aimed to resolve this important issue by establishing areas of consensus and contention in stakeholders’ discourse regarding English.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101. Cox, B. (1991). Cox on Cox: An English curriculum for the 1990s. London: Hodder & Stoughton. Edwards, D., & Potts, A. (2008). What is literacy? Thirty years of Australian literacy debates (1975–2005). Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, 44(1-2), 123-135. European Commission. (2012). Europeans and their languages Retrieved 14th January, 2014, from http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf Gnutzmann, C. (2005). English language teaching in Germany: A reflection of the national and universal importance of English. In G. Braine (Ed.), Teaching English to the world: History, curriculum and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Kyllonen, P. (2012). Measurement of 21st Century skills within the common core state standards Retrieved 15th January, 2014, from http://www.usc.edu/programs/cerpp/docs/Kyllonen_21st_Cent_Skills_and_CCSS.pdf Laugharne, J. (2007). The personal, the community and society: A response to Section 1. In V. Ellis, C. Fox & B. Street (Eds.), Rethinking English in schools. London: Continuum. Limbrick, L., & Aikman, M. (2005). Literacy and English: A discussion document prepared for the Ministry of Education. University of Auckland: Faculty of Education. Mehta, S., Suto, I., & Brown, S. (2012). How effective are curricula for 16 to 19 year olds as a preparation for university? An investigation of lecturers’ views. Paper presented at the The European Conference of Educational Research, Cadiz, Spain. Ofqual. (2012). Moving English foward Retrieved 2nd January 2014, 2013, from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/moving-english-forward Raban-Bisby, B., Brooks, G., & Wolfendale, S. (1995). Developing language and literacy. London: Trentham Books. Smith, M. E. (2013). Independent chair's report on the review of current GCE 'specification content' within subject criteria: A report to Ofqual Retrieved 17th December, 2013, from http://ofqual.gov.uk/qualifications-and-assessments/qualification-reform/a-level-reform/ Suto, I. (2012). How well prepared are new undergraduates for university study? An investigation of lecturers’ perceptions and experiences. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Research in Higher Education, Newport, Wales.
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