As we have already heard from our trusty newspapers (who magically had obtained copies prior to release) we have much to look forward to in the Australian Curriculum for English:
The curriculum takes a more traditional view of literature than has been apparent in some states in the past decade or so. - Justine Ferrari in The Australian 27 Feb
Senior educationists believe the new curriculum for students in kindergarten to Year 10, due to come into force next year, has been infiltrated by fringe lobby groups seeking to include issues such as multiculturalism, indigenous rights, ethical behaviour and sustainable living. – Joe Hildebrand & Bruce McDougall in Daily Tele 27 Feb
GRAMMAR will be front and centre of the federal government’s new national English curriculum. – Stephanie Pealting in SMH 28 Feb
AUSTRALIA’s new national school curriculum is to be unveiled today in a long overdue recognition of the need to return the three Rs to the classroom. - Editorial in The Herald Sun 28 Feb
Though, we already knew all this earlier in the week from Julia Gillard’s address to the National Press Club.
ALL states and territories will be forced to follow a set program for teaching reading under the first national English curriculum, which stipulates the letters, sounds and words students must learn in each year of school. – Justine Ferrari in The Australian 25 Feb
Education Minister Julia Gillard told the National Press Club yesterday that, for the first time, grammar would be taught at all levels of school and parents would have a chance to comment directly on what their children would learn. – Scott Hannaford in The Canberra Times 25 Feb
Actually, we have known that this was coming ever since the release of the National Curriculum Shaping Paper [PDF link] back in May 2009. The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English paper proposed that K-10 curriculum in English be organised around three interrelated strands:
- Language: The Language strand involves the development of a coherent, dynamic and evolving body of knowledge about the English language and how it works.
- Literature: Students learn to interpret, appreciate, evaluate and create literary texts such as narrative, poetry, prose, plays, film and multimodal texts, in spoken, print and digital/online contexts.
- Literacy: Students apply their English skills and knowledge to read, view, speak, listen to, write and create a growing repertoire of texts.
The separation of these strands sure is nice and neat. Cute even…the alliteration could appeal to some English teachers.
But while these separate strands might be neat, they have resulted in precisely what English teachers feared: a regression to a 100 year old teaching approach that divorces the learning of the mechanics of ‘language’ from the learning of the feelings, values and ideas it represents. We’re trying to teach communicators, not copy-typists! But, predictably, here are some of the content descriptors for what students must learn from the Language strand of the 7-10 curriculum for English:
- Resources for creating cohesive texts including identifying reference items, the use of substitution and ellipsis, relationships between vocabulary items, and the role of text connectives (Year 7)
- Understanding spelling rules including origins, word endings, Greek and Latin roots, base words, suffixes, prefixes, spelling patterns and generalisations (Year 7)
- Sentences can consist of a number of independent and dependent clauses combined in a variety of ways (Year 8 )
- Purpose of devices used by authors including symbolism, analogy and allusion (Year 8 )
- Language can be multi-layered, resulting in varying interpretations (Year 9) (…a bit late to learn this?)
- Information can be condensed by collapsing a clause into a noun phrase (nominalisation) (Year 9)
- Different perspectives can be introduced by citing the words and views of others
- Construction of multimodal and digital texts involves knowledge of visual grammar (Year 10) (visual literacy…finally!)
Developing skills in reading and writing is something that I value, that English teachers universally value. But skills such as spelling, grammar and syntax should be taught as means of building a student’s own representational world, rather than as ends in themselves.
Without a clear pedagogical direction that guides teachers to embed language learning within quality literacy and literature teaching, as well as differentiate language learning for students reading at different levels, the Australian English Curriculum will doom countless future students to exercises in disconnected rote learning and grammar drills. Will your child be one of them?
Visit the ACARA website for information on how to submit your views. Have your say about the experience you want your children and students to have by responding during the consultation period from 1 March 2010 to the end of May 2010.