Joel Edgerton stars in and co-wrote The King, a 2019 historical drama film based on several plays from William Shakespeare's Henriad. Picture: Nikki Short
Joel Edgerton stars in and co-wrote The King, a 2019 historical drama film based on several plays from William Shakespeare's Henriad. Picture: Nikki Short

Why schoolkids are rejecting Shakespeare

To be or not to be - that is the question school teachers may well be asking themselves after a poll found students did not consider learning Shakespeare's work relevant to today's society or helpful to get a job.

And almost all respondents said the Bard's language was too difficult to understand and his works should be contemporised.

But federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said Aussie school kids should not be expecting his "timeless" works to be dropped from the syllabus any time soon.

 

A poll has revealed students find the Bard’s language too difficult to understand. Picture: Supplied
A poll has revealed students find the Bard’s language too difficult to understand. Picture: Supplied

 

He may be considered the world's greatest dramatist and writer of the English language but a survey in his birth nation Britain found more than two fifths of students did not see how studying Shakespeare or his works would help them get a job when they left school.

 

The survey, commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and digital technology company Adobe, found 29 per cent of respondents said they might learn more if his plays were set to modern day, one in five believed video and animation would help them understand scenes better and 77 per cent found his language simply too challenging to follow.

More than 40 per cent of those 2000 11 to 18-year-old students surveyed concluded studying Shakespeare would not help them get a job when they left school.

 

Education Minister Dan Tehan says Aussie children should not be expecting Shakespeare’s works to be dropped. Picture: AAP
Education Minister Dan Tehan says Aussie children should not be expecting Shakespeare’s works to be dropped. Picture: AAP

Commenting on the British education poll, Australia's Education Minister said the Bard's work was very much relevant.

"Every student should study Shakespeare," Mr Tehan told News Corp yesterday.

"He is one of the most influential writers in English literature and his plays address timeless themes that are still relevant today. Our Government believes that strong literacy skills are an essential element of an education and learning Shakespeare will strengthen those skills."

 

Joel Edgerton stars in and co-wrote The King, a 2019 historical drama film based on several plays from William Shakespeare's Henriad. Picture: Nikki Short
Joel Edgerton stars in and co-wrote The King, a 2019 historical drama film based on several plays from William Shakespeare's Henriad. Picture: Nikki Short

The debate about including Shakespeare in the HSC or exam syllabuses arises from time to time with some in the Australian education system believing it was no longer relevant.

The survey was commissioned to mark a new digital art series which reimagines Shakespeare's best-loved and most studied scenes and characters.

RSC director of education Jacqui O'Hanlon said regardless of the finding, he was studied around the world including by two million students in the UK.

"We know from our extensive research that having access to arts and cultural learning improves empathy, critical and creative thinking in young people as well as developing their social and communication skills," she said.

 

The exterior of Anne Hathaway's cottage at Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire. Hathaway was the wife of playwright William Shakespeare.
The exterior of Anne Hathaway's cottage at Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire. Hathaway was the wife of playwright William Shakespeare.

"All these qualities and attributes are essential for helping prepare young people to take their place in the world."

She said however a new partnership with Adobe on the new digital art series reimagined Shakespeare's best-loved and most studied scenes and characters and they would continue to look at ways to bring his best loved texts to life for contemporary audiences.



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