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Retrieving the forgotten influence of Herbart on subject English

Don Carter (School of Education, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 3 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to examine the strong influence of Herbartian ideas on the first secondary school-based English course (1911) in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Whilst previous research has established the influence of the “New Education” on the (NSW Director of Education, Peter Board, the architect of the) 1911 courses, no specific analysis of Johann Friedrich Herbart’s educational ideas has been undertaken in relation to this seminal secondary English course.


Through using three of Herbart’s key educational ideas as an interpretive framework to analyse the 1911 NSW Courses of Study for High Schools English course, the paper demonstrates the influence of those ideas on this inaugural secondary English course.


The analysis reveals that the NSW 1911 secondary English course was influenced by Herbartian educational ideas underpinning the course.

Research limitations/implications

This paper focuses on the “pre-active”1911 rhetorical English curriculum in NSW, rather than the “enacted” implemented curriculum.

Practical implications

The paper identifies Herbartian influences on the 1911 NSW English syllabus, revealing important philosophical ideas.

Social implications

Future English curriculum design will benefit from the identification of the philosophical ideas embedded in the NSW 1911 English curriculum.


This analysis provides insights into the Herbartian influences on the first secondary English course in NSW.



Carter, D. (2016), "Retrieving the forgotten influence of Herbart on subject English", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 40-54.



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