Grammar teaching in Australia

[information from Johanna Rubba and Debra Ziegeler]

Current practice

  • I do remember being subjected to grammatical parsing classes while at a state-run primary school in Tasmania, around 1965. I did not find it at all difficult at the time, only boring. As far as I know, grammar parsing became obsolete on the curriculum for primary schools in the 1970s; I don’t know what measures are being taken to recover the subject now.
  • As in other anglophone countries, most English teachers stopped teaching grammar in the 1960s, but in 1994 it was officially reinstated by national requirements for the various states “that explicit teaching of knowledge about language should underpin the language modes that students need to encounter (Australian Education Council 1994:3). This knowledge is found to include grammar, discourse analysis, and language variation.” (Bernard 1999)
  • But “In state schools, past academic and pre-service training has failed to prepare teachers to confidently implement a curriculum with a linguistic component such as that developed by the national curriculum framework. The literature on this point finds in general, that the deficiency in the secondary English teacher’s language knowledge can be attributed to both
    the undergraduate degree, commonly a major in English literature …, and the pre-teacher training course with its general lack of systemised language study.” (ibid)
  • In 1996, it was possible to write that ‘[In Australia] the language system has completely disappeared from view in schooling’ (
    Rothery, Joan. 1996. Literacy in Society. In Ruqaiya Hasan & Geoffrey Williams (eds.), Making changes: developing an educational linguistics., 86–123. London: Longman.p.86)
  • Some states have adopted an approach to grammar based on Systemic Functional Grammar but with more traditional terminology (Horan 2002, Derewianka and Jones 2010).


  • Bernard, Nan. 1999. The fall and rise of grammar in the Australian English curriculum: factors in a continuum of change. La Trobe papers in linguistics. 10. 119–157.
  • Horan, Anne. 2002. English grammar in schools. Proceedings of the Australian Linguistic Society.
  • Derewianka, Beverley & Pauline Jones. 2010. From traditional grammar to functional grammar: bridging the divide. NALDIC Quarterly 8. 6–17.
  • Walker, Laurence. 2011. 200 Years of Grammar. A history of grammar teaching in Canada, New Zealand and Australia 1800-2000.

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