Media Studies: The Soft Choice?

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Media studies GCSE and A-Level are new found courses that have been branded as “not worth the paper it’s written on” alongside many other modern choices such as Accounting, Business Studies, Drama and ICT. The important thing to consider when encountering this accusation is the evidence that backs these claims, however while conducting research I was only able to come across those that support Media Studies as a decent subject choice.

Before exploring this, I must state that it is extremely ironic that the media and communications network that keep us so up to date with the latest news and gossip is partly responsible for casting such a negative shadow upon the hardworking students of modern subjects. In addition, the only person that would be trained to be able to decode these allegations that the media is presenting on this topic would be a Media Studies student, with the rest of audiences being victims of the Hypodermic Needle Theory (a Media term for ideas implanted into the minds of those who are unaware of it).

In an online article, BBC NEWS published this chart in September 2009 which shows clearly the GCSE pass rate within a range of popular subjects. This supplies the evidence needed to put Chemistry in the spotlight of “soft choice” and transferring all positive praise to the hard workers of Media Studies. Over 90% of Chemistry, Physics and Biology students passed their course with top grades A* – C. In contrast Media Studies is well within the bottom half of the table with much lower pass rates. To put it simply, this tells us that its students aren’t exactly breezing through this “easy” subject choice. It is also possible that students that aren’t suited to high academic learning feel encouraged to take this subject, only to fail when the demanding reality of the course becomes too much to handle.

Every August, the country is rattled with the moral panic of “easy exams” and higher pass rates. It is true that this could be put down to infantilization or the process of “dumming down”. Scientists and Mathematicians have already demanded tougher exams, with more experts being available to teach students. Despite this it has been recently reported that schools may scrap sciences for “similar” yet “easier” subjects such as “Material Studies”. This all seems like such a contradiction! One minute it’s the traditional subjects that seem to be best, and then it is the modern ones (such as the ones I listed earlier) that would be more beneficial in the “real world” and the modern workplace. What does society really want from our schools and its students? I don’t think even they know themselves; they just want what the media tells them to. What clever people work within the media! Perhaps Media Studies would not be such a waste of time after all; at least it would let the public regain control of their own minds.

Adele Williams
Editor for the WICID website RCT

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