English Teaching: Practice and Critique

English teaching in New Zealand: The current play of the state

Volume 1 Number 1 November 2002

Terry Locke (University of Waikato, New Zealand)

Curriculum, assessment and qualifications reforms in New Zealand have wrought significant changes in the construction of English as a subject and in the practices of English teachers. While the content of the new English curriculum suggests continuities with past syllabuses, its structural parameters indicate a different discursive agenda. Reforms in senior secondary school qualifications have also acted to construct English in ways that need to be contested and which may be making the subject less responsive to changes in textual practice resulting from the rise in digital technologisation. In a variety of ways, the reforms are also serving to reshape the everyday classroom practices of English teachers, both overtly and covertly through a process of discursive colonisation. Because the reforms have been highly centralised, state initiated and state managed, they have posed a huge challenge to teacher professionalism and identity. Through all of this, the hegemonic status of English as the vehicle through which literature is studied remains unchallenged. The article concludes by listing five challenges to English teachers.