Debates and discussions
The Sydney Morning Herald, July 4, 1994
By Julie Lewis
More than 1,000 State school teachers had been forced to go to Sydney University to upgrade their grammar skills because the Department of School Education failed to give them proper training, a lecturer in the university's professional development program, Mr Robert Veel, said yesterday.
Some schools had paid up to $ 2,000 to train their teachers to teach the new, modern form of grammar now required in NSW, Mr Veel said.
His colleague, Associate Professor Jim Martin, who has spent 15 years developing the new approach to grammar, said the State Government's drive to put grammar back into schools was failing.
The department's introductory teacher-training course contained only a page of grammar, said Professor Martin, from the university's Department of Linguistics.
"It contains the most token gestures twoards grammar," he told the Herald. "... All it does is tell teachers what they already know."
Mr Veel, who is the co-ordinator of the professional development program at the Centre for Continuing Education at the university, said more than 2,000 teachers had enrolled in courses to upgrade their grammar skills. Sixty per cent were from government schools.
They were extremely dissatisfied with the deparment's courses, he said, and schools had been paying up to $ 2,000 from their own budgets to try to catch up.
About 30,000 teachers in State, independent and Catholic schools will have to be trained.
The Minister for Education, Mrs Chadwick, has said she is committed to a renewed emphasis on grammar in NSW schools.
The new kindergarten to Year 6 English syllabus, which includes the modern form of grammar, was introduced in schools this year and is expected to be taught fully in schools by the end of next year.
Mrs Chadwick has pledged that teachers will be given adequate training to be able to teach the very different new grammar component in the syllabus.
A spokeswoman for the minister said last night that she was confident the department would give teachers a comprehensive program that would meet all the needs of the syllabus in grammar, reading and literacy.
However, Dr. Martin said the department did not have staff who were sufficiently trained or who had enough experience to be able to produce competent training courses. A master of arts degree of master of education in applied linguistics or language in education was the minimum requirement, he said.
Draft outlines of the more detailed courses due to be available in term three, which begins next week, were full of wholes, he told the Herald.
The Opposition's spokesman on education, Mr John Aqulina, said the only courses now available expected principals to attend the six-hour introductory course on the English syllabus and then teach their staff.
"Teachers and principals who had done the course describe it as inadequate and feel underprepared to present the content of the department's course to colleagues," he said.
He called for the Government to enlist the help of grammar experts to "ensure primary teachers have a sound knowledge of the syllabus".
However the department's director of curriculum, Dr Lesley Lynch, said she was exasperated by Dr Martin's allegations, which were just nonsense.
She said the department had many officers who were well versed in the new approach to grammar, although they might not have studied it formally at university to the level required by Dr Martin.