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Harry Potter gets literary status in UK

Harry Potter has invaded British schools. Children will have to study the tales of the boy wizard alongside the works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.

books Updated: Apr 29, 2008 04:01 IST

Harry Potter has invaded British schools. Children will have to study the tales of the boy wizard alongside the works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling’s first novel in the series and the world’s 12th best-selling book of all times, is on the A-level English language syllabus of the AQA board, which sets half of UK’s exams.

From next year, students will have to write an 800-word story inspired by the book as well as a 1,500-word essay comparing the author with another writer, The Sun reported on Monday.

Thousands of pupils taking the A-level English examination will be marked on their grasp of the plot, characters and Rowling’s use of language — recently called “gibberish” by a high court judge in London.

However, the move has provoked a row in Britain, with experts claiming that it would “dumb down” school standards.

Professor Alan Smithers of Centre for Education Research has flayed the decision, saying that English literature exams should cover works that have stood the test of time. “I don’t think Harry Potter is appropriate. It may be enjoyable but I don’t think we are just trying to keep people occupied.”

Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education said: “Children should be encouraged to read the great works of literature. Harry Potter may be what they want to read but that doesn’t mean it should be part of an A-level.”

The AQA defended its decision. “Harry Potter is a genuine example of literature of our time. It deserves its place in this unit,” said an AQA spokesperson.