Friday, 24 February 2017


An Australian playwright has questioned changes to the HSC English curriculum that would abolish more modern literary texts in favour of classics including Shakespeare.

Michael Gow, whose play Away has been a standard study text in New South Wales high schools, was speaking at the opening of its theatre adaptation at the Sydney Opera House.

Under changes to the 2018 HSC in English, there will be a renewed focus on text, language, writing and vocabulary, and greater emphasis will be placed on works from Shakespeare and Dickens.

"I don't think it is a bad thing to teach children the basics of literature," he said.

What are the changes?

A breakdown of how English, Maths, Science and History subjects will be changed.
"I hope they don't throw the baby with the bathwater and only give them texts that they will struggle with.
"I think it would be great if there were still things that were familiar [to them].

"So there is not some great chasm with their daily lives and these remote texts that they always struggle with."

Gow said he had a poor experience studying literature at high school.

"We were dragged to see really dull Shakespeare, not really understanding it when we read it."

The director of the latest production, Mathew Lutton, said the play was still important 31 years after it was written.

"It is still speaking to us about Australian families and our country," he said.
Away is set during the Christmas holidays in 1967 which three families spend together at the beach.

Gow apologised to students who had to study his play, although he said certain elements of the work were still relevant.

"There are certainly elements of the play that speak to the '60s," he said.

"But I think the idea of still learning how to talk about complex ideas and how to deal with death and how to keep going are ideas the play still speaks to today.

"I had no intention of tormenting them [students] with this thing I wrote, but it also gratifying as they always said they enjoyed it."

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