Repositioning school-level English education as a project towards post-colonial possibilities

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In post-invasion Australia, schooling and the English language were employed as a key tool of colonisation and a mechanism for asserting colonial authority. As a result, Standard Australian English has become the common language of Australia and English education continues to be an important part of schooling that contributes to the ability of young people to participate in the full breadth of civic life. While contemporary Australia is a long way from the frontier wars of the emerging colony and is now rhetorically positioned as a successful multicultural nation, Australia remains haunted by the ‘white possessive’ and as being (never-quite-post) colonial. School-level English education and its ties to British colonialism, classical literature, and canonical traditions has played a role in sustaining colonial ideas about culture, language and identity. However, given schooling plays a central role in nation-building and the ways schools reproduce normative discourses, dominant culture and privilege, it is important to ponder the relevance of subject English in contemporary Australian schooling with the view of building prosperous, socially engaged and interculturally rich communities.
This paper is a critical review of literature that broadly maps the terrain of school-level English education and examines some of the conceptual and practical challenges facing English teachers in contemporary Australian classrooms. This review interrogates the ways subject-English is currently imagined and positioned in official policy and curriculum texts and examines available empirical and theoretical studies regarding the conceptual construct of English education in contemporary Australian school settings. In particular, in this paper I ask how despite its colonising origins, school-level English education might be uniquely positioned to spearhead a new nation-building project: one of post-colonial possibility.
This review informs the ongoing development of a research project and associated funding application that examines the conceptual and lived spaces of subject English in diverse Australian school settings to understand how subject English might be delinked from colonial pasts and relinked to imagine new post-colonial possibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2022
EventAustralian Association for Research in Education (AARE) 2022: National Conference - University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 27 Nov 202201 Dec 2022


ConferenceAustralian Association for Research in Education (AARE) 2022
Abbreviated titleTransforming the future of education: The role of research
OtherThe Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) is excited to announce its first face-to-face conference in two years. It will take place on Sunday 27 November – Thursday 1 December (Pre-Conference: 27 November) at the University of South Australia, City West Campus. 

The AARE 2022 Conference is SOLD OUT! Please contact ConferenceNational via email if you would like to join the wait list.

Taken-for-granted ways of thinking and working in early learning settings, schools, universities and other sites of formal and informal education have been disrupted in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, urgent climate change challenges, the policy drive towards technological solutions and increasing social and economic ruptures. One of the most urgent ongoing questions in these times is how to live with others in a world of plurality and difference? This year’s conference theme invites education researchers to reimagine their ways of thinking and working to interrupt or disrupt the taken-for-granted and to be research informing. We invite papers to consider different ways to engage with the conference theme of ‘Transforming the Future of Education – the Role of Research’.

Following AARE’s first virtual conference in 2021, this year’s event will be co-hosted with the University of South Australia and celebrate the return to a face-to-face forum. The conference will offer delegates the opportunity to connect, network, share and learn in the delightful city of Adelaide.
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