In the UK, A-level results day this week confirmed an alarming trend, that the study of English is in serious decline. Entries fell by 22%, while almost 3,500 fewer students sat English literature this year compared with last.
Young women who once favoured English A-level are increasingly ditching it and now outnumber their male peers in the sciences.
But there has been no traffic in the opposite direction, as young men continue to eschew English in favour of maths, physics and economics.
Mr Edwards, a teacher, speaking to The Guardian, said that the key factor for the decline in the English language is the government drive to steer young people away from the arts and humanities to study science, technology, engineering and maths – the so-called Stem subjects, which have become the holy grail of 21st-century education in England.
“Recruiting for A-level this year, a lot of the trouble I ran into was that students don’t really see the value of studying English literature at A-level,” said Edwards. “We had an A-level open day where we did taster lessons. I ran the taster session for English and it was quite popular.
However, a lot of the students in there were undecided about it. And the perception I get is that there’s a large push towards the Stem subjects, because there’s a feeling these will guarantee students jobs in the future.”
Parents, he says, play a large part in their children’s decision making. “I know there’s a large push from parents away from what are seen as safe, easy subjects – though English A-level is anything but. And I feel sorry. A lot of the time they’re looking too many steps ahead. There’s a relentless focus on doing a subject because it will get you a job. It takes away the enjoyment of studying.”
Via The Guardian Print edition