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Priming individuals on diversity and inclusion should start in education

Priming individuals on diversity and inclusion should start in education

Priming Individuals on diversity and Inclusion should start in Education.

 

Hamlet.

History Boys.

An Inspector Calls.

Great Expectations.

1984.

A Christmas Carol.

A View from the Bridge.

Romeo and Juliet.

Macbeth.

Animal Farm…

 

These titles may all seem familiar, especially to a British audience. These books have been rotated on the English literature national curriculum for GCSE for more than two decades, and they all seem to have one thing in common.

They are written by straight, white, [for the most part] British men.

Diversifying secondary and university educational materials have become a hot topic for the government and partnering academic institutions. With increasing efforts to ensure fairer and inclusive spaces in the workplace, organisations believe that more needs to be done to teach children about diversity in the education system.

Shakespeare is an international literary paragon; I doubt many students globally leave their schools not knowing his name. Despite improvements in the English Literature syllabus for A-Level students, GCSE literature only covers a narrow range of perceptions and experiences with a clear dominant demographic amongst the set texts- white and male. Of course, curriculum standardisation needs to be taken into consideration when creating a syllabus for students. However, that should not be an excuse for white men dominating the set texts available.

According to the UK government’s education statistics, 33.6% of children in schools [ages 5-18] are considered from minority ethnic backgrounds. This percentage has been steadily increasing over the last two decades, yet the English literature syllabus has not changed to reflect this. The table below lists text options what options are available for their literature studies:

 


 

Edexcel

19th Century Novel

William Shakespeare

Modern text Drama

Modern Text Prose

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde- Robert Louis Stevenson

Macbeth

An  Inspector Calls- J. B Priestly

Lord of the Flies- William Golding

A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens

Romeo and Juliet

Blood brothers- Willy Russell

Animal Farm- George Orwell

Great Expectations- Charles Dickens

Tempest

Hobson’s Choice- Harold Brighouse

Anita & Me- Meera Syal

Jane Eyre- Jane Austen

Merchant of Venice

Journey’s End- RC Sheriff

Woman in Black- Susan Hill

Frankenstein- Mary Shelley

Much Ado About Nothing

 

 

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

Twelfth Night

 

 

Silas Marner- George Eliot

 

 

 

 

AQA

19th Century Novel

William Shakespeare

Modern text Drama

Modern Text Prose

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde- Robert Louis Stevenson

Macbeth

An  Inspector Calls- J. B Priestly

Lord of the Flies- William Golding

A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens

Romeo and Juliet

Blood brothers- Willy Russell

Animal Farm- George Orwell

Great Expectations- Charles Dickens

Tempest

History Boys- Alan Bennet

Anita & Me- Meera Syal

Jane Eyre- Jane Austen

Merchant of Venice

DNA- Dennis Kelly

Never Let Me Go- Kazuo Ishiguro

Frankenstein- Mary Shelley

Much Ado About Nothing

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time- Simon Stephens           [ Novel: Mark Haddon]

Pigeon English- Stephen Kelman

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

Julius Caesar

Taste of Honey- Shelagh Delaney

 

Sign of Four- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

 

 

 

OCR

19th Century Novel

William Shakespeare

Modern text Drama

Modern Text Prose

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde- Robert Louis Stevenson

Macbeth

An  Inspector Calls- J. B Priestly

Never Let Me Go- Kazuo Ishiguro

Great Expectations- Charles Dickens

Romeo and Juliet

DNA- Dennis Kelly

Animal Farm- George Orwell

Jane Eyre- Jane Austen

Merchant of Venice

My Mother Said I Never Should- Charlotte Keatley

Anita & Me- Meera Syal

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

Much Ado About Nothing

 

 

The War of the Worlds- H. G. Wells

 

 

 


  

EDUQAS

19th Century Prose

William Shakespeare

Post- 1914 Prose/ Drama

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde- Robert Louis Stevenson

Macbeth

An  Inspector Calls- J. B Priestly

A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens

Romeo and Juliet

Blood brothers- Willy Russell

The War of the Worlds- H.G Wells

Othello

Hobson’s Choice- Harold Brighouse

Jane Eyre- Jane Austen

Merchant of Venice

History Boys- Alan Bennet

Frankenstein- Mary Shelley

Much Ado About Nothing

Lord of the Flies- William Golding

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

Henry V

Anita and Me-  Meera Syal

Silas Marner- George Eliot

 

Never Let Me Go- Kazuo Ishiguro

 

 

Woman in Black- Susan Hill

 

 

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time- Simon Stephens

 

 

Taste of Honey- Shelagh Delaney

 

CCEA

Study of Prose

Drama

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Macbeth- William Shakespeare

Lord of the Flies- William Golding

Romeo and Juliet- William Shakespeare

The Power and the Glory

Blood brothers- Willy Russell

To Kill a Mocking Bird- Harper Lee

Merchant of Venice- William Shakespeare

Animal Farm- George Orwell

An  Inspector Calls- J. B Priestly

Things Fall Apart- Chinua Achebe

Juno and the Paycock- Sean O’Casey

 

All My Sons- Arthur Miller

 

Dancing at Lughnasa- Brian  Friel

   

 WJEC

Different Cultural Prose

Literary Heritage Drama

Contemporary Prose

Contemporary Drama  

Literary Heritage Prose

Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck  

Othello- William Shakespeare

Heroes-  Robert Cormier

History Boys- Alan Bennet

Silas Marner- George Eliot

Anita and Me-  Meera Syal

An  Inspector Calls- J. B Priestly

Never Let Me Go-  Kazuo Ishiguro

Blood brothers- Willy Russell

Lord of the Flies- William Golding

To Kill a Mocking Bird- Harper Lee  

Hobson’s Choice- Harold Brighouse

About a Boy-  Nick Hornby

A View from the Bridge- Arthur Miller

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou  

Taste of Honey- Shelagh Delaney

Resistance- Owen Sheers

Be My Baby- Ronnie Spector

A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens

 

Much Ado About Nothing- William Shakespeare

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha- Roddy Doyle

My Mother Said I Never Should-  Charlotte Keatley  

Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve- Dannie Abse

*These tables were created by DJM via the UK national curriculum website for English Literature studies*

 

In the United Kingdom, examination boards [or awarding bodies] are the organisations that award students with their secondary education certificates. This can include GCSE’s, BTEC’s and A-Levels and Highers for most students. They vary in popularity amongst schools as each exam board provides different qualifications, content, and assignments for students. From the six listed on the national curriculum website, AQA, Edexcel, and OCR are the most widely used exam boards throughout the United Kingdom. OCR is also being used in 10% of private schools. CCEA is an awarding body that solely functions within Northern Ireland. WJEC offers exams in Cymraeg and English, and Eduqas is a smaller awarding body that isn’t widely used than other exam boards.

After completing a short analysis of the available books to students across all six exam boards in the UK, there were some stark findings. Across the exam boards, there are 121 books in total, with many repetitions. However, that is to be expected as this is a national curriculum, we should be some standardisation for fairer and equal examination practices.

Out of the 121 books that are listed  (each Shakespeare text will be considered separately), this is the breakdown of the race and gender demographics:

Gender

%

Male:

74

Female:

26

 

Race

%

White:

91%

POC (People of Colour):

9%

 

Providing statistics for authors of the LGBTQIA+ or with (dis)abilities is a little bit difficult. Where the authors are concerned, there is a lot of information that is not in public knowledge or provided, particularly with writers like Shakespeare. Yet, from the lists of writers above, there seem to be no individuals who have a (dis)disability or are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Despite the UK government overwhelmingly pushing for set texts to be from English authors, some staple American novels such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and John Steinbeck’s infamous Of Mice and Men have been included on the syllabus, despite a push for British authors.

 

Reforming the English syllabus for more diverse set texts is indeed a complicated discussion.

The current parameter of novels available on the national curriculum is incredibly narrow. There is a conscious bias towards male and overwhelmingly white demographics. A report by charity and teacher training organisation Teach First has released an essay discussing the lack of representation in literature Studies taught in UK schools. Simply adding authors of diverse races, genders, sexualities, and abilities may seem like a performative gesture. This can make the diversification and decolonisation of a syllabus less meaningful and tokenistic. Also, educators need to consider that it needs to meet students' knowledge and skill levels when adding the texts to a syllabus. With these factors considered, an open discussion needs to happen about the representation of underrepresented authors, who will be more representative of the current student body.

The classroom is the perfect place to prime oncoming generations about the importance of representation, diversity, and inclusion. With a more diverse syllabus, students will learn in-depth about different perspectives and experiences, whether they reflect their own or not. In 2015, the Department for Education changed the GCSE English literature curriculum whereby all students will study texts exclusively written by English authors. Whilst I understand why this move was made, as it is the study of ‘English’ Literature, the curriculum demonstrates that English means male but more particularly white. This creates an environment where students grow up in a world where the dominant demographics will always be white and male- even in the employment process.

This needs to change.

Many schools focus on the treasured classics, but the contemporary environment that we are in no longer reflects the world created in those novels as much they did a few decades ago. The United Kingdom supposedly prides itself on celebrating the diversity of its citizens yet refuses to celebrate diversity and different experiences of British writers but not white.

Of course, reforming, diversifying, and potentially decolonising the national English curriculum needs to go beyond ticking a box for a tokenistic quota. It needs to be a meaningful reflection of an experience that some students may relate to and that all can learn about literary skills, perspectives, and experiences. This also makes literature more accessible to those who may not find the prose of the treasured classics challenging to understand.

Diversifying the curriculum will prime students for the range of experiences and perspectives that shape the corporate space. It also removes the structural and institutional dominance of ‘whiteness’ and being male, which may help individuals to understand the importance of difference, diversity and inclusion practices when they start employment.

*Written by DJM Content producer Mahnoor Ahmad*

 

 

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