- What is the EAL curriculum and what is its purpose? Am I eligible to complete EAL instead of English?
- The Study Design: What can it tell us?
- What type of writing is required for EAL students to score well in VCE?
- What kind of literature do EAL students have to study?
- What is the EAL exam like? Should I devote more or less time to preparing than my other exams?
What is the EAL curriculum and what is its purpose? Am I eligible to complete EAL instead of English?
The intention of the EAL English Units 3 and 4 program for year 12 students is to "mend the linguistic gaps between local students and those from non-English speaking backgrounds" (Lisa's Study Guides 2020).
The EAL program is for students who have not yet lived in Australia for 7 years or who have not had more than 7 years with English as their main language of instruction in an educational setting.
Despite being for non-native speakers of English, the EAL curriculum for Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) students requires students to do just about as much work responding to texts, analysing real-world articles and thinking critically as the VCE English curriculum.
However, it is done in a manner that may be considered 'easier' by some.
What is not acknowledged under this 'easier' tag is that language comprehension is also a core part of the EAL curriculum, therefore the subject combines components of a first language course with a second language course.
This is, of course, demanding but very rewarding and worthwhile for students still improving their grasp of the more advanced components of the English language.
The Study Design: What can it tell us?
To give you some indication of the similarities between the subjects of EAL and English in VCE, their study designs are grouped together on the VCAA website into one PDF file.
This is a hint that the skills assessed in each subject are very similar.
However, as I will discuss below, there are some skills that are assessed in the EAL curriculum, such as listening, which are not assessed in the standard English curriculum.
Reading the study guide on the VCAA website is a great help for all students for all subjects, however, for the sake of convenience, I will summarise the EAL study design, and how it differs from English below.
The EAL curriculum for VCE consists of many components which are very similar to the VCE English curriculum.
For example, one of the outcomes is to "produce an analytical interpretation of a selected text, and a creative response to a different selected text" (VCAA 2020). Equally similar to the VCE English curriculum, students are assessed on their ability to "analyse and compare the use of argument and persuasive language in texts that present a point of view on an issue currently debated in the media" (VCAA 2020).
The EAL curriculum differs in some respects, for example, students are assessed on "a demonstration of understanding of two to three texts that present a point of view on an issue through short-answer responses and note form summaries" (VCAA 2020).
In other words, instead of writing more long-form text response essays, students will be asked to summarise certain shorter articles or texts in order to demonstrate understanding.
When completing an "analytical interpretation of texts and/or creative response".
This is a recurring theme in the EAL curriculum. While it shares more than half of its content and requirements with VCE English, it occasionally diverts from that syllabus in order to test students understanding of various text types.
The next place where this is done is in listening. EAL students must respond to a spoken text and demonstrate their understanding of that text. Again, this is done through short-answer responses and note-form summaries.
Although this seems easy, as students spend a large part of each and every day listening to and comprehending native English speakers, the EAL listening tasks can actually be quite difficult as students will be required to not only comprehend but also decode and retain specific pieces of information, as well understanding the gist of the speaker's points of view.
What type of writing is required for EAL students to score well in VCE?
Well, many of the writing skills which they list in the study design are taken directly from the VCE English curriculum. However, there seems to be less emphasis on creative writing than in the English study guide.
This has actually been a recent topic of analysis for the Department of Education, as there are concerns about the lack of a creative writing component in the EAL study design.
A recent article in The Age suggested that Victoria is the only state which "minimises the craft of writing" in English and EAL.
This report even suggested that the solution could be to create more separation between the teaching of English and EAL, with greater emphasis on listening skills in the EAL cohort.
In any case, currently, while the mainstream English students do a creative response to an additional text (these students have one more text on their list than EAL students), EAL students will be occupied with the listening component of their assessment.
But let's break down what a Year 12 Units 3 and 4 EAL student will be assessed on, in both SACs and exams in terms of writing:
Units 3 and 4 SACs:
- Reading and responding to texts: Analytical essay/Creative piece 10%
- Analysing argument: Short-answer responses/note-form summary/analysing argument essay 10%
- Listening to texts: Note-form summary/analysing argument essay 5%
- Reading and comparing texts: Comparative essay 15%
- Presenting argument: Oral presentation/statement of intention 10%
Listening to texts: Short-answer responses 10%
Reading and creating texts: Analytical essay 20%
Analysing argument: Short-answer responses/analysing argument essay 20%
These percentages will make up your entire study score. It's that easy! Master these skills and writing styles and you are looking at a high 40's study score for EAL. Not impossible, that's for sure!
It is also worth noting that EAL essays are not expected to be of the same length as those of mainstream English students.
Where students of English would have to write 800-1000 words in an "analytical interpretation of texts", EAL students would be expected to write just 700-800 words.
What kind of literature do EAL students have to study?
Courtesy of VCAA, here is the list of texts which are available for study in English and EAL for students in 2020 and 2021:
-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
-Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
-Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
-Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant
-Toni Jordan, Nine Days
-Joan London, The Golden Age
-Christine Piper, After Darkness
-Emily St John Mandel, Station Eleven
-Cate Kennedy, Like a House on Fire
Stories for study: ‘Flexion’, ‘Ashes’, ‘Laminex and Mirrors’, ‘Tender’, ‘Like a House on Fire’, ‘Five-Dollar Family’, ‘Cross-country’, ‘Sleepers’, ‘Whirlpool’, ‘Cake’, ‘White Spirit’, ‘Little Plastic Shipwreck’, ‘Waiting’, ‘Static’, ‘Seventy-Two Derwents’.
-Alice Munro, Runaway
Stories for study: all.
-Euripides, The Women of Troy
-Hannie Rayson, Extinction
-William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
-Pete Skrzynecki, Old/New World: New & Selected Poems
-William Wordsworth, William Wordsworth: Poems selected by Seamus Heaney
-Alfred Hitchcock (director), Rear Window
-Sarah Polley (director), Stories We Tell
-Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
-Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
What is the EAL exam like? Should I devote more or less time to preparing than my other exams?
Year 12 can be very demanding on students' time management capabilities. Out of all the years of school for a student in Australia, it is by far the most important and difficult.
Furthermore, exams at the end of this trying year are worth 50% of your entire study score!
Needless to say, you want to ask the right questions and collect the right resources in order to score strongly in your exams.
As I have already mentioned, VCAA study guides are a great place to start. The study guide will tell you what you need to know and nothing more.
So, instead of over-preparing, you can focus your finite resources on answering the questions and writing on the prompts which will appear on the exam, in ways which will get you maximum marks!
The EAL exam will require you to write two essays, one analytical essay based on a text studied during either Unit 3 or 4 and one essay where you will write an analysis on an argument from a particular text (often an article) presented on the day.
There will also be a listening component where you will be asked to write short-answer responses.
The best way to prepare for the EAL exam is to do lots and lots of practice exams! After writing these practice exams, hand them to your teacher so they can give you feedback.
Try to write in a similar format using similar quotes and arguments each time, so you sharpen your handle of those particular ideas which you have developed over the academic year.
Questions to ask your teacher include: Which are the weakest parts of the essay? Is the length appropriate? Was my analysis of the argument accurate?
Asking these sorts of questions, to which you may not like the answer, will be critical for taking your writing to the next step.
Your teacher can only help you insofar as you are willing to listen and improve!
So devote resources and time to the EAL exam, but don't over-prepare to the point where you neglect your other subjects, as many of those subjects require a level of memorisation and practice beyond that asked of EAL or English students.