The Board of Studies tells us that “the Area of Study requires students to explore the ways in which the concept of belonging is represented in and through texts.” Simple enough, yes?
Not quite. Anyone who has ever gone through the excruciatingly painful procedure of studying one concept for just shy of half the English course will testify that this is a tough ask. Do not be fooled into thinking this will be easy just because the entire state, regardless of whether they are studying Advanced, Standard or ESL English, will sit the same exam. You will have to have a thorough understanding of the concept of belonging as well as a range of texts in order to succeed.
The basic idea behind making students undertake an area of study is to ensure they understand how texts, through their language and/or visual forms and features, come to influence the way we understand and respond to the world around us. This sounds quite pretentious but when you think about it, it makes sense. We come to know the world and meaning within it through what we see, read, watch, and listen to, and we create meaning through our words, writing, visual works and actions. The area of study just narrows this phenomenon down to one concept so that students can understand the deep connection between texts and the world they are composed and responded to in. Basically, the board of studies wants you to understand that texts come to represent, and at the same time create everything that we know about a particular concept.
As part of the area of study, you are expected to study belonging and non-belonging as concepts, one prescribed text and a range of related texts. Understanding the concepts is essential—the texts you study will only be relevant to one out of three questions in the exam. You need to develop your own understanding of what it means to belong or not belong, barriers to belonging and outcomes of belonging, to name a few ideas. (More on belonging later). It is not simply a case of giving dictionary definitions. No marker will be sympathetic to those that list definitions without demonstrating their own unique understanding of the concept, but they will appreciate evidence of your personal experiences and encounters with the concept.
If you take anything from this post, PLEASE remember that it is a concept study, NOT a text study, and the texts will always be secondary to the things you learn about belonging and non-belonging. You will have to compose your own creative piece that embodies what you have learnt about belonging, as well as write about how texts you have never seen represent and shape your understanding of belonging BEFORE you even start writing about your prescribed and related texts.
It is inevitable that you will come to hate the words area of study, belonging and non-belonging. But take solace in the fact that if you truly understand what is required from you in the area of study and can show this, you will succeed in HSC English. More importantly, think of how awesome all that hate is going to make the note burning session at the end of the HSC.