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What is English? Understanding how subject English is framed in The New Zealand Curriculum

Felicia Ward

Since its emergence as a distinct subject area in the nineteenth century, English has been an important, but contested, subject. Competing discourses, resulting in different models of English, have vied for prominence, each with ideologies about the purposes of education and the needs of students and the state. However, while international research into subject English is plentiful, little has been written about the current state of subject English in New Zealand. Using content analysis and critical discourse analysis this article examines senior subject English in the New Zealand Curriculum. The results reveal that while subject English in New Zealand retains progressive features, it has been colonised by neoliberal educational discourses. This article argues that the results of these discourses include the commodification of learning, the entrenching of inequalities, and the reframing of teachers as mere technicians. While senior subject English in the New Zealand Curriculum is examined here, the results have implications across the curriculum, particularly in light of the NCEA review which began in 2018 and will result in changes from 2024.

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