Britain’s biggest exam board has decided to include books by Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in its English GCSE syllabus, following complaints about there being too many “dead white men.” Pearson owned Edexcel announced that from this September, schools will be offered more poems, plays and novels to choose from, including those written by authors from black, Asian and BAME backgrounds. Katy Lewis, Pearson’s head of English, drama and languages, explained that the move followed calls for the selection of texts on offer to be more representative of different cultures and ethnicity.
Calls to “decolonise” the curriculum are gaining pace at universities, where students have urged faculties to update reading lists. The movement is now gaining pace in the schools as well with the move by Pearson. The GCSE poetry anthology will include the Pakistan-born Imtiaz Dharker (mother of actress Ayesha Dharekar) and Grace Nichols, who is Guyanese among the works of William Wordsworth and Robert Bridges. Meanwhile, the post-1914 literature paper will feature plays by Tanika Gupta, who is of Indian heritage and Asian Achievers Award winner, and Benjamin Zephaniah whose parents are from Barbados. Other new texts include the novel 'Coram Boy' by Jamila Gavin, who was born in India, and 'Boys Don’t Cry' by Malorie Blackman, the former children’s laureate whose parents are from Barbados.
Katy Lewis said: “It has been clear that there is a lack of diversity in the offer of British texts for GCSE English literature.” However, she sad that they will not be removing any of the current texts or poetry collections and can be continued teaching and that the new text are simply added to broaden the choices. The new initiative will affect 50,000 students. Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said in order to thrive, children need to be able to see people like themselves reflected in the curriculum.