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The Teaching of Latin and Greek in Universities in Australia and New Zealand: Present and Future

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

G.H.R. Horsley
Affiliation:
The University of New England
Elizabeth Minchin
Affiliation:
The Australian National University
K.H. Lee
Affiliation:
The University of Sydney

Extract

Most classical journals report on research on literary, historical and linguistic questions, and rarely allocate space to discussions of pedagogy at tertiary level. This article, however, falls into the latter category. It takes the form of a report on the teaching of Latin and Greek (both classical and post-classical) in universities in Australia and New Zealand; and it makes a number of suggestions regarding the future of the classical languages in this region.

Any general examination by an outsider of the situation of Classics in Australian and New Zealand universities would readily conclude that most departments are managing well, or at least holding their own, compared to other disciplines. Student enrolments are high overall, since most departments, like those in Britain and North America, have expanded their teaching range to embrace ancient history, classical literature in translation and, in some cases, archaeology. This has been the situation for the best part of the last two decades. Often these subjects were introduced in order to ‘subsidise’ and protect the continuance of Greek and Latin with their smaller numbers; but they have been extremely popular with students in every university in Australasia in which they are taught. And so these teaching areas have come to have a life and a rightful presence of their own.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1995

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References

1 Synoptic surveys of Australian and New Zealand contributions in research have been published by, for example, Jocelyn, H.D., ‘Australia-New Zealand: Greek and Latin Philology’, in Arrighetti, G.et al. (eds), Lafilologia greca e latina nel secolo XX (Pisa 1989) 543-81Google Scholar. See also a commemorative volume of Antichthon: Sinclair, R. (ed.). Past, Present and Future: Ancient World Studies in Australia (Maryborough, Victoria 1990)Google Scholar.

2 See already Barsby, J.A., ‘The Classics in New Zealand’, JACT Review, 2nd series, no. 1 (Summer 1987) 1315Google Scholar. By way of comparison, note the recent survey of classical language teaching at beginners' level at universities in Britain, Survey on ab initio Language Teaching’, CUCD Bulletin 24 (1995) 1939Google Scholar. The survey (collated by N.J. Lowe) was conducted in July 1995, and covered university departments where New Testament Greek is taught as well as Classics departments.

3 For a brief survey of developments in Classics in Europe and elsewhere, see Appendix III.

4 A report funded under the Evaluations and Investigations Program of the Australian Government's Department of Employment, Education and Training. In recent times, after the present article was completed, another report funded by DEET was released. This report, the Baldauf Report, also deserves particular attention from all classicists: Baldauf, R.B., Viability of Low Candidature LOTE Courses in Australia (DEET 1995)Google Scholar. Cf. Baldauf, R.B., ‘LOTE in Australian Universities’, Australian Language Matters 4.1 (1996) 12Google Scholar. [In Australian educational jargon LOTE = Languages other than English.]

5 An appendix to the Johnson-Rawson Report, compiled by R.J. Gardner, offers a survey of computer-based programs which are currently being used in some overseas institutions, particularly in the United States.

6 The survey comprised Part A, General questions and issues of policy; Part B, The teaching of beginners' units in Greek or Latin; Part C, The teaching of later-year Greek units; Part D, The teaching of later-year Latin units; Part E, The teaching of fourth-year honours students in Greek or Latin. The survey questions are set out in Appendix II, below.

7 Responses were sought from all university departments and sections which were known to be teaching the classical languages. Theological Colleges were not included. Since the survey was conducted in 1994, we have learned that a single-semester introduction to New Testament Greek is being taught at Flinders University, South Australia, in the Department of Modern Greek (cross-listed with Theology) for about 20 students, and that colleagues at the Brisbane campus of the Australian Catholic University plan to introduce Latin in the near future. Only Monash University will not be represented in any of the tables below. Economic and other factors have caused the Department of Greek, Roman and Egyptian Studies (now the Department of Classics and Archaeology) at Monash University to review its whole curriculum, with substantial alterations being made to language offerings. In these circumstances it was not possible for the department to provide the data required for the survey.

8 In conjunction with the 1995 Congress of the Australasian Universities' Languages and Literature Association (AULLA 28).

9 The only university which regularly attracts ex-HSC Greek and Latin students in any numbers is Sydney.

10 These figures applied at the time of the survey. Since that time teaching hours at Newcastle and Tasmania have dropped to four hours per week.

11 Mastronarde, D.J., Introduction to Attic Greek (Berkeley 1993)Google Scholar is being used for the first time, in 1995, at ANU.

12 Not all departments appear to be aware that supplementary exercises (Betts and Henry, A Supplement to Ancient Greek) are available from the Monash Department. The exercises, however, are similar to those in TYAG. A supplementary booklet, by Gavin Betts, is available also from Monash for Teach Youself Latin.

13 At Sydney students might read selections from Xenophon, Anabasis; Plato, Laches; Chariton, Chaireas and Callirhoe; Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris. At La Trobe (Bundoora) texts include a Gospel; Plato's Apology; and selections from Lucian. External students at UNE read selections from classical prose and verse texts, although the internal students (who use Reading Greek) do not.

14 Sydney makes an argument of a different kind for introducing students in their first year to selections from the ancient authors. Given that many students will not pursue language study beyond first year, the selections they read give them a sampling, before they cease their study, of the great writers of the ancient world.

15 The Melbourne Greek Summer School, which was confined to beginners, is no longer available; but one of the theological colleges in Melbourne offers a regular summer school in New Testament Greek. (A Medieval Latin Intensive Summer School for beginners has been offered at one of the residential halls at the University of Tasmania for the last three or four years.)

16 The role of the summer schools as training grounds for a new generation of teachers of the classical languages should not be overlooked.

17 This will change from 1996, when Macquarie will offer full units in Greek and Latin for beginners.

18 If we consider statistics which are available to us, we learn that the retention rate from 1st to 2nd year (across all Faculties) at one university, ANU, is approximately 80% (ANU Statistical Bulletin 1994, Table 51: Retention Rates of Bachelor Degree Enrolment). The ANU figures for the last three years on which data are available are: 1991: 80.9%; 1992: 82.3%; 1993: 80.9%.

19 The authors thank all those who responded to the ASCS survey of Greek and Latin teaching. We received 18 responses, several of which were very detailed and, therefore, all the more useful. We thank also Jacqui Clarke and Neil O'Sullivan, who were part of the language-teaching panel at the ASCS Conference of February 1995, for their contributions; and John Barsby, who read a draft of this article. Finally, while the statistics may tell their own story, the views expressed in this article represent the perspectives of the three authors on the survey and on its implications for the future.

20 J.A. Barsby, ‘The Classics in New Zealand’ (above, n.2); Phinney, E., ‘The Current Classical Scene in America’, JACT Review, 2nd series, No. 2 (Autumn 1987) 27Google Scholar; Matthiessen, K., ‘On the Position of Classical Languages in the Federal Republic of Germany’, JACT Review, 2nd series, no. 4 (Autumn 1988) 58Google Scholar; P. Wülfing, ‘Latin and Greek in Europe: the Present Situation’, ibid. 9-13; Borg, S., ‘The Classical Scene in Malta 1979-1989’, JACT Review, 2nd series, no. 8 (Autumn 1990) 1012Google Scholar; Korzeniowski, G. and West, S., ‘Classics Teaching in Poland’, JACT Review, no. 20 (Autumn 1991) 1314Google Scholar; Muraviev, A., ‘Classics Teaching in Russia’, JACT Review, 2nd series, no. 12 (Autumn 1992) 1112Google Scholar; Whalen, P., ‘Classics in Canadian Schools’, JACT Review, 2nd series, no. 13 (Spring 1993) 24Google Scholar.

21 Burns, M.A. and O'Connor, J.F., The Classics in American Schools: Teaching the Ancient World (Atlanta 1987)Google Scholar is valuable on primary and secondary level teaching, rather than tertiary, but does not offer much comment on language teaching per se; Lafleur, R.A., The Teaching of Latin in American Schools (Atlanta 1987)Google Scholar; and the diverse and highly stimulating Culham, P. and Edmunds, L. (eds), Classics: a Discipline and Profession in Crisis? (Lanham 1989)Google Scholar. Rather dated but of interest for its assessment of different approaches to Greek and Latin teaching is Moreland, F.L. (ed.), Strategies in Teaching Greek and Latin: Two Decades of Experimentation (Chico 1981)Google Scholar.

22 See, for example, Classical World 83 (1989) 12Google Scholar.

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