#BalanceTheBooks: commit to gender equality and better diversity in terms of class, race and sexuality in set texts for GCSE English Literature.
This petition had 786 supporters
Over the course of the past year, significant education reforms have been announced, including changes to GCSEs. In response to these changes, exam boards have had to revise their qualification specifications.
These draft specifications are currently in the process of being submitted for accreditation. If accredited, they will be taught from September 2015, with the first exams taking place in summer 2017.
Here at For Books' Sake, we know all too well that women writers - despite reading, writing, buying and selling more than their male counterparts - often don't receive the recognition they deserve, from media coverage to major literary awards.
So, with this institutionalised gender disparity in mind - we took a closer look at the past and draft specifications for GCSE English Literature from five major exam boards in England and Wales.
We hoped that the exam boards would take this revision process as an opportunity to make a real, tangible commitment to equality and diversity.
We examined the course specifications and analysed the gender breakdown of the set texts they referenced. And what we found was that overall, representation of women is getting worse.
With over 500,000 GCSEs students sitting exams annually, the texts set by the exam boards have a huge impact and influence. So we're calling for the exam boards we've listed above to #BalanceTheBooks, and commit to gender equality in their GCSE English Literature specifications, along with better diversity in terms of race, class and sexuality.
If successful, that could mean more than half a million young adults reading more women writers, and a more diverse range of voices.
But the draft specifications put forward by the exam boards are disappointing. A snapshot of our results show that students taking their exams in 2017 will study 38% more texts written by men than texts written by women – that’s a 12% increase in disparity from this past exam year.
As an organisation that champions women writers, we can't stand by while representation of women gets worse. While our data shows that the gender breakdown of the set texts has never been even close to equal, the latest statistics are evidence it's becoming more and move heavily skewed towards white men, a demographic with a long-standing tradition of dominating past and present literary heritage, to the exclusion of women writers.
But enough is enough. With a wealth of incredible women writers from a diverse range of backgrounds, there is no excuse for texts by women to represent only a third of those studied from 2015.
We've decided it's time for action. It's time to #BalanceTheBooks.
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