Ave Narrative…

OK, so I’m not Catholic.

But I feel Ave Maria is an apt musical choice today with ACARA’s announcement that the writing style to be tested in NAPLAN will no longer be Narrative, but Persuasive.

You can get the information here: http://www.naplan.edu.au/writing_2011_-_domains.html

Let me say straight up that I love persuasive writing.  I love essays, I love speeches, I love editorials.  I love persuasive language.  One of my favourite units to teach is our Year 11 unit ‘Voices of Protest’ where students explore persuasive writing forms and techniques through a close study of a speech and related protest poems.

What I don’t love is the way that Stage 6 English buries imaginative writing within an Area of Study and Modules that are in reality oriented toward responding to the texts of others.

I also don’t love the fact that in the HSC, students in the mandatory 2 unit English are only examined on imaginative writing in any form in ONE out of the SIX exam sections.  The way I see it, both in my teaching and through everything I have researched so far, doing so constitutes a ‘hidden curriculum’ that devalues student imagination and decreases the time teachers can spend on creative language skills.

At least we had NAPLAN, eh?

At least it was there as an externally managed assessment of student literacy and language that signalled the importance of the creative.  The importance of imagination.  The importance of the lyrical, the figurative and of imagining other worlds.

Not any more.

And so the message is clearer than ever – essays rule the roost.  Get your kids started early on perfecting their persuasive writing, lest they struggle with HSC exams!

I challenge anyone from ACARA, or any of the Education Ministers who were at that MCEECDYA meeting where Narrative got the boot to explain that this decision had anything to do with ‘just mixing things up’.  Anything whatsoever to do with providing a balance between persuasive and narrative writing in the assessment of curriculum.  Because if they really do think so…well, it’s gotta be time to review the balance in the HSC, no?


  1. #1 by Troy on June 9, 2010 - 7:03 pm

    I love the contradiction. Creative, innovative, imaginative thinking- as long as it fits into the liteary canon (hate to think we are dumbing it down! See the recent The Australian article about the National Curriculum, the first of many no doubt). 15 marks out of 105 (HSC Exam) is profoundly telling: what do we value? Other peoples’ stories, selected by a few and so narrow in scope. Get rid of the HSC prescribed text lists. The way you explain: ‘The importance of imagination. The importance of the lyrical, the figurative and of imagining other worlds.’ is exactly how I think.

  2. #2 by kmcg2375 on June 10, 2010 - 1:03 am

    Thanks Troy – not many takers for commenting on this post, but have had some comments through Twitter and Yammer. Very mixed. Most people bemoan the undermining of creativity across the board through English assessment structures. Some have pointed out that the genres were always intended to change, and others cite how boring the narrative questions in NAPLAN have been of late.

    *sigh* perhaps there is room for hope here – now that we don’t have to ‘coach’ kids to write to the NAPLAN Narrative ‘formula’ we can spend more time playing with narrative in exciting ways. Let persuasive writing be all about correct spelling and paragraph use for awhile…

    Narrative is dead…long live Narrative?

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