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Harry Potter and the A-Levels

Posted by: sue
April 27, 2008, 12:04 AM

The Daily Mail is reporting tonight that Harry Potter is now required reading for A-level students in the UK. The paper says that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone is one of the books students will be tested on in exams given by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the largest exam board in the UK.

According to the paper, students “taking the English language and literature A-level next year will study Rowling’s first Potter volume – the 12th best-selling book of all time and the basis for a Hollywood film – along with one other book for the module Themes in Language and Literature. They will have to write a 1,200 to 1,500-word piece of coursework comparing the “approaches” of J.K. Rowling and the other writer.Examiners will mark students on how they relate story lines and the activities of Harry Potter and his friends to the context of the times. And students will have to show an understanding of J.K. Rowling’s use of language, described recently as gibberish by a High Court judge. They will also have to write their own 500 to 800-word story inspired by the book.”

While many here may view this favorably, apparently some in the English government are not as excited about the inclusion of the Harry Potter series along side other classic works such Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Professor Alan Smithers, a special adviser to the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, said: “The point of English literature is to provide works that have stood the test of time and that allow people to understand their place in the world as others have understood it.I don’t think Harry Potter is appropriate as a set text; I don’t see how it fits in with that. It may be an enjoyable read but I don’t think we are just trying to keep people occupied.”

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, added: “This is all done in the name of relevance and popular culture, but it is not why children go to school.They should be encouraged to read and understand the great works of English literature. Harry Potter may be what children want to read, but that doesn’t mean it should be part of an A-level.”

Last night the AQA said: “Harry Potter is a genuine example of literature of our time and therefore entirely deserves its place in this unit. We believe that it will prove a popular and engaging inclusion.”

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