Sixth-formers taking a new English A-level may be asked to study comedian Russell Brand's evidence on drugs policy and interviews with music star Dizzee Rascal as part of the course, it has been disclosed.
Tweets by broadcaster and columnist Caitlin Moran and memoirs such as Twelve Years A Slave are also on the text list for the qualification, alongside poetry, plays and fiction by writers such as George Orwell, and William Blake.
The text list includes Russell Brand's evidence on drugs policy which was presented to the House of Commons, pieces by The Secret Footballer, who has written anonymously about professional football, memoirs, the transcript of a BBC Newsnight interview with Dizzee Rascal, poems by Emily Dickinson and William Blake, and works by Orwell, Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte.
The new English Language and Literature course, drawn up by the OCR exam board and the English and Media Centre (EMC), is one of the new A-levels due to be introduced in schools in England next year, as part of a Government overhaul designed to toughen up exams.
OCR and the EMC said that the range of texts included in the course is "the most diverse yet for any English A-level".
There has been a mixed response so far on social media.
Russell Brand and Dizzee Rascal in new English A-level... http://t.co/joP4lsHI58
Ridiculous - more diluting and dumbing down.
— Lady Durrant (@LadyDurrant) May 6, 2014
Russell Brand & Dizzee Rascal who can barely string a sentence together between them, feature in new English A-level
— Bingo Bango (@BongoBongo18) May 6, 2014
Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, told the Telegraph: “This is just a continuation of the drive to make subjects more relevant, accessible and trendy that’s dominated education thinking for the last 20 years.
“I can assure you that when pupils in China, Singapore and other high-performing countries sit down to study English they won’t be turning to Russell Brand, rappers and Tweets. This is all about diluting and dumbing down.”
The aim of the course is for students to "develop the skills to analyse any text, whether spoken or written, literary or non-literary, in the most appropriate way," the organisations said.
It added that those studying a play like The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde will have to look at ideas such as form, structure and dramatic techniques, while those reading the transcript of the Dizzee Rascal interview will look at concepts like purpose and audience.
The course now has to be submitted to exams regulator Ofqual for approval. A Department for Education spokesman said the exam "has not been accredited and we await Ofqual's decision with interest".
OCR English Language and Literature subject specialist Hester Glass said that in the past, the qualification had lacked a clear identity and they were aiming to set a new gold standard to make the A-level into a "valuable, distinctive qualification".
"It will provide a firm grounding for university and improve employability in any field that requires an ability to use language in a practical, agile and articulate way - from science, business or politics to the arts," she said.
EMC co-director Barbara Bleiman said: "The new A-level will introduce new approaches and scope for more creative writing, while offering teachers and students the flexibility to explore an extremely broad variety of styles, methodologies and genres.
"Taking on board feedback from teachers, we've created a specification with a superb choice of texts, from familiar names like George Orwell, Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte to fresh voices including Grayson Perry, Allie Brosh and poet Jacob Sam-La Rose. From graphic novels like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, to comedy scripts, TV screenplays and journalism, the course offers great diversity, within a set of broad parameters."