What’s Education For Anyway? A Summary

Posted: November 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
On Thursday 6th November, Oxford Student PEN hosted a debate on education and curriculum reform. We were joined by three speakers: Eric Royal Lybeck, a Ph. D student in sociological history of education at the University of Cambridge; Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College and Professorial of English Literature; and Ian Thompson, Associate Professor of English Education at the University of Oxford. The debate was chaired by Asha Rogers, D. Phil student in English Literature at Oxford.
After three superb talks by our speakers in which they described their own experiences of the English Literature GCSE and their reactions to the curriculum reforms, we moved onto questions from the floor. Eric gave a detailed overview of the controversy surrounding the reforms to the literature curriculum, suggesting some possible reasons for these reforms, and their potential effect. Jonathan, who was on the panel advising Michael Gove when these reforms were initially suggested, outlined the reasons these decisions had been made, and pointed towards the discrepancy between how the curriculum did change and how these changes were represented by the media. Ian, who spent sixteen years as a secondary school teacher, drew on his first-hand experience of the classroom to explain how these reforms will affect English teachers on the ground. In the debate that followed we a number of points were discussed, including: the role of literature in cultural exchange – should the literature that we teach reflect a multicultural Britain, or should we teach more traditional texts as an introduction to ‘British’ culture?; how far exam boards are responsible for the narrow range of texts that are taught in schools; and the extent to which teachers should have autonomy in choosing the texts they teach.
Thanks to all those who came along and made the event so lively and thought-provoking!
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