kev – you seem to have beaten me to the punch with the list of reasons for studying English Literature in high schools. Here are some of the benefits to students in the UK, some of which I see you have reached already:
1. It improves their ability to read, write and speak.
2. It asks them to think about emotional and intellectual issues, to consider their own values and opinions, as well as to understand the opinions of others and how they may challenge their own.
3. It asks students to empathise with others.
4. It allows students to enjoy literature and to share their enthusiasm with others.
5. It exposes them to their own literary (and historical) heritage as well as that of other countries and cultures.
6. It asks them to analyse and evaluate how a writer has used language, form and structure to create a literary work (including novels, poems and plays).
7. It asks them to consider, express, and justify with textual evidence, their own opinions and interpretations, while taking into account other opinions and how they differ from their own.
8. It enables students to learn how their own writing, academically or creatively, can improve from the examples of professional writers.
9. It allows students to compare similar literary works (usually poems for brevity) and study how writers have, for example, written about the same theme in different ways, using different literary techniques, and so on.
10. It allows students to learn how a literary work can be expressed in a different medium, such as film.