Year 12 English Students Study SMS

Justine Ferrari, Education writer

January 13, 2007

SHOW and tell is one assessment task suggested for Year 12 English students in South Australian schools by the state’s curriculum board.
Changes to the state’s English curriculum this year also include the study of SMS, podcasts, graphic novels and song lyrics.

Teaching resources authorised by the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia for assessing students in the English Studies course, which is the literature course, include ideas for “non-text-based” activities.

“Choose three objects which are of significance to you, and explain their importance in your life,” the document says.

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Other activities suggested include giving demonstrations of packing a picnic basket, reading astrology charts, making a cake, giving a facial or grooming a dog.

English Studies is based on the critical study of texts, while English Communications is a broader study of the power and role of language in society.

From this year, as part of their study of personal communications, English Communications students in Year 12 will have the opportunity to study text messages, along with family gatherings, letters and telephone calls.

Other forms of communication studied under the various topics include talkback radio, junk mail, press releases, chat rooms, online shopping and podcasts.

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop yesterday lamented the studying of text messages in lieu of time-tested classics such as Shakespeare, particularly in states such as South Australia and Queensland that do not have English as a compulsory subject for all school students.

Ms Bishop said that as part of the development of a national curriculum framework in English, she would like to see Shakespeare included as a compulsory text.

“I strongly encourage state education authorities to include Shakespeare and other classics in their curriculum,” she said.

“An appreciation of the best literature available should be an essential part of schooling. I would encourage state education authorities to aim higher, for higher standards.”

Ms Bishop described the study of text messages in Year 12 as illogical, and said most students would know more about it than their teachers.

“By replacing the teaching of the classics with courses that encourage them to text, are you encouraging students to take the easy path? It’s not challenging or stretching students.”

Ms Bishop said the introduction of national literacy tests from 2008 would include assessment of spelling, grammar and punctuation not currently tested in state-based assessments.

“The difficulty is not having students learn how to send text messages, but having them speak correct English.”

Jury Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Adelaide, Penny Boumelha, welcomed the idea of English being compulsory for school students.

Professor Boumelha said that teaching students how to write text messages was of little value in an English course.

In the curriculum document, text messages form part of the communication study. A spokesperson for the assessment board was unavailable yesterday.

David Hng

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