How to improve the teaching of literature?

The Centre for Education Methodology, the institution in charge of developing school curricula, has asked for my views on teaching literature at secondary schools. Having visited scores of gymnasiums and other types of schools across the country over the past few years, I expressed my views openly and critically. Surprisingly enough, the Centre’s staff agreed with everything I said – changes in the way language and literature are being taught Slovakia are proceeding too slowly or not at all. Here are my suggestions on how to change this state of affairs:

1. Stop the orthodox emphasis on (mostly) outdated textbooks and instead make full use of newly developed readers that haven’t reached most schools even though their quality is high. To put it simply: read literature first and theorize later.

2. In the era of Google and Wikipedia put to rest our legendary obsession with encyclopaedic knowledge. What this has meant in practice is that the students swot up on where and when Baroque writer Hugolín Gavlovič was born and died, without ever reading a single one of his poems and discovering that his humour might actually appeal to them.

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