May I quote from the Scottish Qualifications Authority website: "The Higher qualification in English immerses learners in literature.

They will be given an understanding of the great works of writing in English – from various cultures – and be encouraged to study these independently."

As an addendum to the ongoing brouhaha on the merits or otherwise of Scottish texts being made compulsory study in our schools, not only are Scottish texts not mandatory at Higher level, it is perfectly possible to pass, and therefore, logically, achieve an A pass, from the Higher English exam on the day, without recourse to any literature at all, let alone Scots (Letters, 15, 18 & 21).

Students sit two parts of the Higher English paper on the day; a critical essay section and a close reading section.

The latter comprises two unseen passages, usually taken from the quality press. Candidates have to answer questions on these tracts in terms of understanding, analysis and evaluation.

The critical essay section invites candidates to answer two separate questions from any of five sections, viz: drama, prose, poetry, film and TV drama, and language. In other words, and it has happened, candidates are perfectly entitled to discuss, say, an episode of EastEnders, Holby City or Emmerdale from the film and TV drama section and then tackle a question from the language section.

Again, and it has happened, discussion of text language is deemed a perfectly valid issue to analyse.

Absolutely no literature of any kind has been addressed. Nor need it have been.

Of course, the above on-the-day exam accounts for only 80% of the final mark. The other 20% is available for candidates during the course of the year writing two essays, one of a broadly discursive nature, the other, broadly creative.

No literature in sight, once again, either English or Scots.

Dumbing down? Perish the thought.

G McCulloch,

47 Moffat Wynd,