For the first time, Britain is planning to include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which are often described as a distraction to study, in the school curriculum.

The qualification, called ‘English Studies: Digital Communication’ would require pupils to understand the sites as part of the school curriculum under plans for a new English GCSE.

“This qualification builds on students’ interests in digital texts and proved to excite and engage both boys and girls in our pilot. It reflects the changing needs and interests of learners,” a government spokesman said.

Teenagers could take the course as a stand alone subject or alongside traditional English language and literature papers, The Telegraph reported.

British exam regulator Ofqual is currently looking at the course content and Edexcel, the exam board, aims to launch it next year.

Assessment criteria for a pilot of the scheme say that students “must be able to read, analyse, critique and plan” different types of text.

These should be “industry made or user generated examples of advertising, audio podcasts, video/moving image, websites, social networks, wikis and blogs”, the marking scheme said.

However, education campaigners have condemned the idea as “dumbing down” saying it was a “distraction” from the essential skills pupils should be learning.