A few days ago, in the course of a debate in a different thread I mentioned a quote from English writer Keith Waterhouse about literature in the A-level syllabus (thank you, Hamlet, for your reply):
The other day I was chatting to a young man who is swotting away for his ‘A’-level in English literature. Part of the syllabus is George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four ‑an enviable assignment, I might say, to one who wasted three terms on Julius Caesar, which is probably the most boring play that Shakespeare or anyone else produced.
Assuming a mutual interest in the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, I mentioned a couple of other of Orwell's books and wondered if my young friend had read them. Not only had he never heard of them, he had no wish to even take them down from my shelves, and flip through them. They were not, he explained, in the syllabus. Therefore they would be of no use to him in his exam. I wondered if he knew anything about Orwell's life, which was a fairly interesting one, and proceeded to give him a potted biography. I detected that expression, half desperate, half pitying, which you only see on the faces of young people who are being bored rigid by their elders. Orwell's life was not in the syllabus. There was no need to learn it. There was no time to learn it. It wasn't the first time I'd encountered this lack of curiosity in teenagers. I've known grammar‑school girls who could recite T.S.Eliot backwards, forwards and sideways, but who would have been hard put to identify, let alone quote, any other poet in the English language. They will sail through their 'A' levels with as much knowledge of the subject they're being examined in as a Derby winner has of the world outside a racecourse. And the fault isn't theirs. It's the fault of the system that teaches them, if teaching is the word. Originally, the purpose of an examination was to determine how much of the year's work the student had comprehended and retained. Now that notion has been neatly turned on its head. The purpose of the year’s work is to determine how many exam questions the student may successfully answer.
If you have time to answer, I'd like to know to what extent this anecdote reflects your own experience as students.