The study of classics has elitist connotations in the UK and for this reason, it is no longer studied.

The article was published in the Daily Telegraph. It explains why GCSE students are avoiding studying ancient history. In the minds of the students, classical studies does not earn them a job. What they fail to realize is that the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, studied classical history.

GCSE students avoid taking ancient history because it’s seen as ‘posh’

Study finds just 0.1 per cent of students take the subject, as learning about the ancient world has ‘elitist’ connotations

By Craig Simpson4 March 2022 • 6:00am

The Ancient History GCSE is unpopular because pupils think it is “elitist”, a Cambridge study has found.

The qualification introduced in 2009 under Ed Balls, the then education secretary, has proven to be one of the least popular in the country, behind only manufacturing and Welsh language studies.

The GSCE is taken up by just 0.1 per cent of students because learning about the ancient world, from the pyramids to Julius Caesar, is seen as “posh” and “elitist”, a Cambridge study has found.

Experts fear that the perception of the GCSE as a “snobby” subject will put schools off offering it to students, as well as discourage young people themselves from choosing it.

Dr Frances Foster, from the faculty of education at the University of Cambridge, said: “Ancient History was put on the GCSE curriculum to make it more accessible.

“If we value that principle, we should be worried that so many of the students who actually get to study it feel so uncomfortable about the idea.”

Following a battle to retain the Ancient History A-level – in a campaign led by Boris Johnson – an additional GCSE course was devised in 2008 and rolled out the following year.

But take-up has been poor, the Cambridge study has found, despite any school in England, Wales and Northern Ireland being able to offer it.

Schools reluctant to offer ancient history

Its image as an elitist and impractical subject has led to resistance to introducing it from school authorities, and a reluctance among students to pick it when the subject is actually available – a scenario which is vanishingly rare in state schools, the study found.

Dr Foster said: “As long as that remains the case, students will be told it’s not for them, it’s not going to get them a job, and they would be better off doing something else.”

Academics have argued that teachers making the subject more widely available across schools could diminish the stigma attached to it, making it seem less the preserve of the privileged few, and making students feel more comfortable taking it without the risk of being seen as “posh”.

Dr Foster said: “There is also some evidence that it might even be a popular move.

“Despite their concerns, students who took the subject also said they found it interesting and rewarding. Many were particularly interested in the stranger and more distant aspects of the ancient world.”

The study is published open access in The Curriculum Journal.

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