Andrew's Inner Sanctum

My thoughts about what's happening in my world

My Issues With The English Curriculum In QLD

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by Andrew

Decided I’m going to have a rant about the English curriculum in QLD (and this probably applies to all states in Australia). In Queensland to receive your QCE (Queensland Certificate of Education) you have to complete a certain number of semesters in approved subjects (which is fair enough) and you have to pass the literary and numeracy requirements, which also seems fair enough…but Queensland’s definition of literacy is stupidly complex in my opinion.

To pass English in Queensland you have to pass both the oral and written aspects of the English course. The course is the problem though. The course doesn’t really reflect your ability to read and write, it deals with a whole lot of other things such as memory, creativeness, emotion and subjective interpretation – which count absolutely NOTHING towards being literate.

I failed an oral task where I had to act out a scene from a Shakespeare play and if I fail the next task where I have to analyse poetry and discuss what it says to me, then I fail English and am apparently illiterate – YET I CAN WRITE THIS BLOG POST IN CLEAR ENGLISH!

The tasks this year for English have included a motivational speech on leadership, an essay about Shakespeare’s play, acting out a scene from a Shakespeare play, writing an literary film review from a movie, writing an analytical essay from a 20th century novel, writing a short story from a line of poetry & finally recording a podcast about poetry and what it says to you. Not a single one of those tasks can differentiate between a literate and non literate person, they differentiate between people who are good at reading meanings out of books, movies and plays that do not need to be analysed unless you wish to become someone involved in literature in your further studies.

I always perform poorly in short stories because I am not a creative person. I have immense difficulty coming up with ideas and I generally deal in facts, figures and technicalities and not in emotion, creativeness and fiction. That task disadvantages me greatly, because these are things that cannot be taught, you either have them or you don’t and with the way my brain works, I have more difficulty than most people with these types of thinking and therefore only scraped a C for this task. The same thing with the Shakespeare oral, where you have to act out a scene from a play. I have poor acting skills, have difficulty remember large amounts of text that I cannot understand or process easily and because of this I failed this task.

The final task I have to complete is analysing modern poetry and then creating a podcast looking at what it is trying to say to today’s youth audience and it’s relevance. I’m supposed to read the poem and feel the meaning from it and see what it is trying to say to me, even without actually understanding actually what it means. When I read the poetry, it doesn’t actually mean anything to me, it is just a bunch of words thrown together on a page – yet if i was to put that into my podcast, I would fail. If I fail this English assessment – then I fail English and therefore I am illiterate according to the QSA – YET AGAIN, I’M WRITING THIS BLOG POST IN ENGLISH JUST FINE.

The English system in Queensland is a joke and needs radical reforms and quickly. The current English curriculum favours those who are creative and not those who can simply spell and punctuate correctly and use correct grammar. Shakespeare, analysing films, plays, novels and poetry are not skills that you need to be able to function in day to day life and are definitely not skills you need to be considered literate, although according to the QSA they are. There are stacks and stacks of people out there who have passed English, yet they cannot string sentences together properly, cannot spell and certainly cannot punctuate. It’s because there is so much time wasted on this other rubbish that the actual basics of literacy are forgotten. English needs to be structured into a system like Mathematics, where there is a general course (Maths A) for those who wish to be numerate and able to use maths to overcome everyday situations such as currency, basic measurement and statistics, and then more advanced courses (Maths B & C) for those who require extra levels of Maths for their further studies or for those who simply have the interest.

Why is it not required that all schools offer an English course which deals with issues such as filling in forms correctly, reading timetables and schedules, basic comprehension, putting proper sentences together, spelling and punctuating correctly? This course can be offered to anyone who just wishes to be classified as literate and then you can simply offer all the extra emotional interpretation skills and performances to those who wish to study it in English B and Drama.

To all of you across Queensland who have some hard slogs coming up for the next term in English to simply pass – I wish you all the best. To all those coming up through the English system in future years, I hope that reforms come sooner rather than later so this nonsense is stopped.

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  • Anonymous

    The english course is not focused solely on literacy/illiteracy. If you want to take the literal meaning, then most people are literate by the age of 10. Of course, we have to keep going with english studies, therefore we make it more complex. It is the same as problem solving in maths – we apply our knowledge to gain a deeper understanding of something. However the difference with english is that there is no ‘correct answer’ – it is based upon your own interpretation. A written piece means something different to everyone, whether it is profound or a piece of crap. The assessable part comes when you can explain this understanding reasonably and logically using well formed arguments.

    And as for giving an advantage to creative people: To put it in a cliche, everyone is good at something. People who struggle to think logically are at a disadvantage for maths, yet that isn’t the fault of the course. And as for covering comprehension, punctuation and sentence structure: This is the place where the QLD education system is at fault. Growing up overseas, I was shocked to move here and find that this hadn’t been covered. This should be a junior school focus, not a high school one.

    Sorry for the epic comment. =)

    • http://www.andrewtechhelp.com/ Andrew Tech Help

      Thanks for your comment. I still wish I could write – this doesn’t mean anything to me, because it doesn’t make any sense etc and be able to pass because there are “no correct answers”. At least with Maths there is a distinct procedure that you can ROTE learn and it will just about always work the same way every time. I also struggle with Maths problem solving but not Knowledge – fancy that :P

  • Nat

    I agree with you, Andrew. I would go further and say that English should not be a compulsory subject. It teaches nothing that you need later in life except if you are going on to do Arts at university. As you say, it also disadvantages those with a logical/engineering mind. All it does is provide jobs for Arts graduates; people who would normally only find a job in the public service or academe. It also perpetuates the “pet” views of the Arts academe. An English course which focused on writing for the workplace would be a much better use of time and resources for high school students.

  • Barb

    I could not agree More. My grandson has just failed Qld English for the same reasons. How to write a letter, application for a job, read and or listen to the News would also be good.