Wednesday 22 October 2014

HSC English requirements 2015 - 2020 NSW

For the past 6 years, the NSW HSC theme has been 'belonging'. 

Bookshops and libraries around the state have become conversant with books and texts that can be related back to this theme. 

Authors and publishers, also aware of this theme, have written & premoted many, many stories that fit within this theme.

But as of Term 4 2014, when the new Yr 12 classes begin, the theme will change to discovery.

This is of particular relevance in our family right now, as my eldest stepson is one of those new Yr 12 students about to embark on his own year of discovery. (Sympathetic comments welcome here!)

With thanks to the STC for this archived photo.
Books on his list of discovery include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon and The Life  and Crimes of Harry Lavender by Marele Day.  

The Collected Poems of Robert Frost (The Tuft of Flowers’, ‘Mending Wall’, ‘Home Burial’, ‘After Apple-Picking’, ‘Fire and Ice’, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’) & The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (play by Ray Lawler) round out the genres. 

The discovery film of choice for his school this year is Billy Elliot (2000).

Both Mr Books & I studied the Lawler play for our HSC's and we both remember it fondly. 
I also recall a day trip my English class had to Sydney to see the play. A quick google check reveals why it was so memorable - the cast in 1985 included Steve Bisley & Ruth Cracknell! 

My main concern about this play is it's setting - 1950's rural Australia is not a time period likely to engage my stepson!

I loved The Curious Incident and Billy Elliot & I feel that my stepson could also enjoy them if he lets himself (although he is more of an action, dystopian, fantasy sort of reader. This year's stories are more suited to the sensibilities of my youngest stepson who likes real life stuff). 

I know next to nothing about Harry Lavender or Robert Frost. It will therefore be a year of new discoveries for all of us! 

Alongside the 'Prescribed Texts' (that each school selects), the students are expected to have at least two related texts of their own choosing.

I've included the Board of Studies notes below for clarification.

AREA OF STUDY: Discovery 

This Area of Study requires students to explore the ways in which the concept of discovery is represented in and through texts.

Discovery can encompass the experience of discovering something for the first time or rediscovering something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed. Discoveries can be sudden and unexpected, or they can emerge from a process of deliberate and careful planning evoked by curiosity, necessity or wonder. Discoveries can be fresh and intensely meaningful in ways that may be emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual

They can also be confronting and provocative. They can lead us to new worlds and valuesstimulate new ideas, and enable us to speculate about future possibilities.  

Discoveries and discovering can offer new understandings and renewed perceptions of ourselves and others. 

An individual’s discoveries and their process of discovering can vary according to personal, cultural, historical and social contexts and values. The impact of these discoveries can be far-reaching and transformative for the individual and for broader society. 

Discoveries may be questioned or challenged when viewed from different perspectives and their worth may be reassessed over time. The ramifications of particular discoveries may differ for individuals and their worlds. 

By exploring the concept of discovery, students can understand how texts have the potential to affirm or challenge individuals’ or more widely-held assumptions and beliefs about aspects 
of human experience and the world. 

Through composing and responding to a wide range of texts, students may make discoveries about people, relationships, societies, places and events and generate new ideas. By synthesising perspectives, students may deepen their understanding of the concept of discovery. 

So discovery can be NEW & FRESH or a REDISCOVERY.
The discovery be INTERNAL or EXTERNAL.
Discovery can be represented in many different ways - OVER TIME and within different PERSPECTIVES & CONTEXTS.
A judgement or analysis can be made about the discovery citing EFFECTS, IMPACTS, ASSUMPTIONS, BELIEFS & RAMIFICATIONS.

The web abounds (already) with flow charts & visual discovery prompts like the one below.

Other discovery texts on the BoS list include:

Wrack by James Bradley
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Vertigo by Amanda Lowry
Feed by M T Anderson
The Story of Tom Brennan by J C Burke
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Hours by Stephen Daldry
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Dubliners by James Joyce
1984 by George Orwell
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Sixty Lights by Gail Jones
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Cloudstreet by Time Winton
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Clay by Melissa Harrison
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
The Tree of Man by Patrick White
The China Coin by Allan Baillie
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung
Fly Away Peter by David Malouf
Romulus My Father by Raimond Gaita
The Hare With the Amber Eye by Edmund de Waal
The Orchard by Drusilla Modjeska
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin
An Artist of the Floating World by Ishiguro Kazuo
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I have created a 'discovery' label for my posts and I will be on the look out for related texts to add to the list. From previous experience, many students look for picture books to boost their related texts quota. 
Shaun Tan was a popular choice for the 'belonging' theme & I suspect will get a good look in for 'discovery' too!
If anything else pops into your mind, please feel free to leave your ideas below. 

Pinterest has dedicated 'HSC discovery' boards & there are many 'HSC experts' online offering all kinds of advice.
Some of the info out there contradicts & conflicts - so if in doubt, ask YOUR teacher & keep on asking.

But for now - good luck & may all your discoveries be fortuitous.
And happy reading!


  1. Thinking about your stepson; when I was that age I was an avid reader of science fiction and almost nothing else. I do remember appreciating some of the works that were read for school however. I think that this reading sparked and interest that bloomed years later.

    Personally I think that you will all be in for a real treat with Robert Frost.

    1. Excellent - I've ordered the Robert Frost collected works, just waiting for it to arrive :-)

  2. Robert Frost is my favourite poet. Having grown up in an American school (though now living in Aus) we studied a great deal of Robert Frost. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening is a beautiful poem. This post makes me want to read all of the discovery posts. To be young again reading all of these books but with the mind of a more experienced reader. I think I'll save this list.

    1. I've now bought a collected edition of Frost's the whole family can enjoy the experience :-)

      I'm more of a metaphysical poet girl, so the nature poems will be a nice change of pace for me.
      We already knew a bit about Stopping by the Woods, thanks to our love of the cult TV series Roswell. Alex was studying this poem when he died - he left clues via this poem to help the other characters work out what had happened!

      The frustration I feel comes from seeing how little interest or curiousity my stepson has in any of these books. I loved (or grew to love) all the books I studied in my final years. I would read other books by the same author & I certainly didn;t just read the prescribed poems - I read the entire collection!!
      Mr Books assures me that this is a boy/girl divide. And since he has turned out to be an avid, eclectic, curious reader, I have to trust that the future will also see my stepson embracing adult literature!


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