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Harry Potter on UK A-Level Courses

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Harry Potter on UK A-Level Courses Empty Harry Potter on UK A-Level Courses

Post  Elanor Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:44 am

Harry Potter on UK A-Level Courses

This topic serves as an archive of a thread from the Harry Potter Lexicon Forum as hosted on World Crossing which ceased operation on April 15, 2011. At that time, this thread was still set in the "New Discussions Threads Not Approved or Placed" folder of the WC forum. Elanor

Liz Mann - Apr 27, 2008 5:33 am
Edited by Kip Carter May 9, 2008 4:14 am
Leaky is reporting today that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is going to be on the A-level English curriculum. For those non-Brits on here who don't know, A-levels are a qualification you can earn between 16 and 18. We leave compulsory education at 16 and then the next qualification we earn is primarily for the purpose of getting into University. In short, they're the Muggle equivillant of N.E.W.T.s.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I wish it had been on the curriculum when I did my English A-level! And fans of the book doing the course will love it. And it may produce some new fans. But on the other hand when my class did Lord of the Flies at G.C.S.E. level (Muggle equivilant of O.W.L.s), after going over it several times even those students who liked it at first were getting sick of it. I really do think that sometimes the worst thing you can do to a book is to put it on a curriculum, give people a deadline to read it, make them go over it again and again and again, then make them write essays and do coursework on it, and basically make them stress over it. Then again that's probably a bigger problem at G.C.S.E. level because the students haven't chosen the course for themselves and so might not be fond of reading.

What do you guys think? Do you even think Harry Potter is curriculum material?
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Post  Elanor Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:45 am

Orion - Apr 27, 2008 5:59 am (#1 of 12)
It is certainly literary material of high quality, or we wouldn't discuss our pretty heads off about it. And it doesn't have, unlike bleeding LOTF, such a sickly educational line of attack. So it's brilliant reading material. But Liz, I absolutely agree with you that once you analyze something at school and get homework assignments about it, you lose interest.

When I took my A-levels (sort of, the system is different where I live) in literature, most of what we read was absolutely fascinating. We were lucky with our curriculum and our teacher! But we could choose the subject in which to take our A-levels in, so in those lessons were only students who loved literature enough to be interested. How is it in other countries? Will every student be exposed to Harry Potter, whether they like to read or not, or can they choose the subject if they like it? That seems to be a crucial point, IMO.

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azi - Apr 27, 2008 8:05 am (#2 of 12)

Photo borrowed from Ardent Photography
I think that the rabid HP fans who have read it so much they know it off by heart will have an unfair disadvantage.

Plus, there are much better HP books than the first one. For A-level age range I think PS is written in too young a style. It would suit study around Key Stage 2/3 a lot better (10-11 or 13-14 year olds).

Orion, it depends what exam board your A-level is with as to whether it'll be a study option. Teachers tend to have a choice of a few books to study and pick themselves rather than the students choosing.

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Orion - Apr 27, 2008 11:01 am (#3 of 12)

What is an exam board, azi? It seems to be an important word because I still don't understand whether you have to pass your A levels in literature or whether you can ditch literature and concentrate on maths, physics, french and history, for example. In my last two years of school I had to take lessons in about twelve subjects, whose marks were part of my final school report, but I had only a final exam in four subjects, one of which was literature.

But you couldn't ditch literature altogether because it was considered too important, so everybody had to take it.

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Liz Mann - Apr 27, 2008 11:31 am (#4 of 12)

Join us for the Philosopher's Stone Watch-A-Long
An exam board is the board that decides on the curriculum and writes the exam papers. There are several exam boards and each institution picks which one to use for each subject, I believe.

You can choose what subjects you study at A-Level, so all the students will likely have an interest in reading. They might not like the genre of course.

I too think that Harry Potter's real merit is as a series, rather than as individual books. It's the progression and the character development and the gradual maturation etc.

Apparently the work involved with the text is to compare it to another similar text and also to write their own short story based on it. So presumably the other text will be of a similar genre/target audience. Maybe it's to study the way children's literature has changed, that would be a good way to use HP.

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azi - Apr 27, 2008 11:42 am (#5 of 12)

Photo borrowed from Ardent Photography
Orion, most people take 4 A-levels and there aren't any compulsory subjects, with the exception of General Studies in most colleges (a waste of time if there ever was one - we just took the exam and never had lessons but the college got money for making us do it).

The exam boards are the people who set the syllabus and exam. There are a few different ones - OCR and AQA for example. In college I had the choice of taking AQA or Salters Biology, both different courses in what they cover and their emphasis. Even more confusing, there are different options for a subject set by the same exam board. The college chooses which to offer. For instance, they could choose syllabus A or B, according to which they would prefer to teach. Even more confusing, within a syllabus there is still a choice on what to cover. For instance, for my history A-level we covered Angevin Britain, but could have studied the Anarchy of Stephen's Reign if the teacher had decided.

Does that make any sense?

Edit - do we know what the similar text is? That would be interesting to know.

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Orion - Apr 27, 2008 1:49 pm (#6 of 12)

Yes, that makes a lot of sense, azi and Liz. Thank you for the explanation. So if only students who like the subject choose it for their A levels, they will have lots of fun with Harry Potter books. But it makes sense to read the whole series then. PS/SS is a book for children, even if it's a work of art and hilariously funny. If they want to cover contemporary children's literature, they might as well take "Wee Free Men" by Terry Pratchett, which is just as brilliant. (Sorry, I just have to shamelessly plug it because I love it so much.)

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freshwater - Apr 27, 2008 3:04 pm (#7 of 12)

Connections, speculation, discussion: the best part of HP reading! Check out the on-going HP Lex Forum series re-read! Currently reading GoF...
As much as I love the idea of an HP book being part of a college course, I feel that PS/SS alone is not adequate to be the focus of a course....maybe books 1-4, or 5-7....then you would have a range of HP events/background/drama/relationships from which to draw for discussion and comparisons.

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geauxtigers - Apr 27, 2008 8:58 pm (#8 of 12)

Yum!
But Liz, I absolutely agree with you that once you analyze something at school and get homework assignments about it, you lose interest.

I agree as well. I'm convinced that the second a book becomes required reading, people loose interest. I feel like that with a lot of books that we read in school. I'm not sure how A-levels work, but are they just reading a passage or the whole book?

I agree with whoever said it seems young. Not that that's bad, but for a high school exam that determines your future, it seems a little light, if that makes sense. (for the age group that is) I think one of the later books would be better for the age group. But I can see them not wanting to 'ruin' the ending LOL! Or maybe that's just the fan in me!

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Liz Mann - Apr 28, 2008 11:46 am (#9 of 12)

Join us for the Philosopher's Stone Watch-A-Long
HP and the other book probably won't be the only ones students have to write about. So I suppose if the others texts are more serious ones then they get variety, which is good.

They're reading the whole book but they might concentrate primarily on particular passages. That's what I did at A-level.

I don't think they can do any book other than the first, because you would need to read the early ones to understand the later ones.

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Chemyst - Apr 28, 2008 5:59 pm (#10 of 12)

"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." A.A. Milne
When I read the article, my first thought was also that PS is written for a younger age level; so I was glad to see azi comment on that.

The second thing I wondered about is: To what degree is its inclusion due to the British-ness of the HP story?
For example, there have been some major changes in the kinds of standardized test questions in the US over the past couple decades. One of the widely marketed history tests dropped questions about George Washington in favor of asking about civil rights and the United Nations– less hard fact history and more soft sociology. Of course, teachers who want their students to score well change their curriculum to reflect the more global and less patriotic viewpoints. Many people see that shift as a bad thing: Children are less likely to understand their roots.
So, I’d like to ask: Do you think the choice of HP was influenced by a desire to keep the A-levels “pure bloodline” British? ...or is it all about the literature?

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azi - Apr 29, 2008 4:11 am (#11 of 12)

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Hmm, that's an interesting comment Chemyst. I never did A-level English, but thinking back to my GCSEs (OWL level), only one of the authors I studied - Steinbeck - wasn't British. Maybe A-level branches out more.

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Orion - Apr 29, 2008 8:11 am (#12 of 12)

Well, "pure-bloodline" A-levels in literature can't exist, because no teacher will exclude US/canadian literature and at least one example of english language literature from (excuse me if I say something offensive, I can't find another word for it) "third world countries". And if the curriculum really only takes UK literature, you still have the other languages you learn, in which you also read literature, so you have at least a slightly broader foundation.
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