Squeeze in or squeeze out? How teachers fit the non-Biblical parable to the NSWDET K-6 English Syllabus

Year: 2005

Author: King, Nita Smith, Ewing, Robyn

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Raising Australian literacy standards continues to be a focus for both Commonwealth and State governments. The setting of benchmarks, emphasising measurable outcomes, has arguably led to more explicit teaching methods. Many schools, parents and teachers report improved literacy results. Sachs (2001) however, has argued that the resultant curriculum control comes at a cost to teacher professionalism, while Ewing (2003) has highlighted the intensification and increasing complexity of teachers' work. This paper reports on research with 65 NSW government primary teachers. Questionnaire data suggests that trying to confine literacy to a set of basic parameters imposed by an external authority leaves teachers uncertain about dealing with literary forms such as the non-Biblical parable (e.g., The Little Engine That Could). Nevertheless, this literary device is so highly regarded for the development of values and thinking skills that teachers use them regardless of perceived curriculum restraints-evidence of creative dissent. The paper also argues that teachers need to be treated as professionals, able to stretch boundaries of syllabus documents in order to respond to the needs of their students without feeling uncertain and/or guilty.