Influences of the Education of Jill KerConway and its Conflicts

Term Paper, 2004
13 Pages, Grade: 2,1 (B)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Education at Coorain

3. Education at Sydney
3.1. Queenwood
3.2. State School
3.3. Abbotsleigh
3.3.1. Miss Everett

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In this paper I want to write about the education Jill Ker Conway got according to her autobiographical novel “The Road from Coorain”. I want to show the influences of the different kinds on her development and the conflicts that appeared. I will start with the education she received at Coorain and later go on with the different schools she visited in Sydney. I will only write about the education Conway got from her parents or at school. Her experiences at university do not appear in my paper, because I wanted to concentrate on the years which are the most formative influences in a person’s development and also the conflicts that appeared in Conway’s educational life.

2. Education at Coorain

Coorain is the sheep station the parents of Jill Ker Conway bought in 1930. Since it was in the Outback of Southern Australia there were hardly any people apart from her family and of course no regular school. The only other children in an area of 70 miles were her two brothers Robert and Barry. Both of them were taught by a governess who only stayed at Coorain for eighteen months. (She left because her life was too lonely at the sheep station and the boys often made fun of her.) They learned while Jill sat under the table and listened or teased them. To avoid being disturbed by the girl, the governess gave her letters and numbers to copy so that Jill knew them. Her mother let her read aloud to her in order to get some company and Jill learned reading before she knew she was taught to. She was not even six years old when she started lending children’s books from her mother’s lending library. Encouraged by Mrs. Ker she learned how to self-educate. Her mother set a very big example according to this: Since she never finished high-school she tried herself to self-educate at Coorain. Later, after she widowed, she impressed her daughter again: “ She did try to study part-time at an Australian university, but people didn't take older women, sort of suburban housewives, seriously, so she never really settled down to do it. “[1] Although her attempt was not successful it showed her daughter never to give up and to follow your dreams.

The life at Coorain was performed in a male-dominant world which was supervised by Mrs. Ker. She was an emancipated woman who had learned very early to be strong and independent. Conway’s mother encouraged a severe equality between her three children and did neither tolerate tears nor any other sign of emotions. Since Jill only had her two brothers to play with, she had to join their rough games and even was not allowed to cry when the going got too tough. The most important aspect of the way she educated her children was to be self-reliant and to make up their own minds about everything. So Jill and her two brothers Robert and Barry became as independent as they could be. Another important aspect of Mrs. Ker’s way of education was that her children had to be responsible very early. They had to work hard on the station. Jill for example helped her father with the cattle and often had to ride alone on a horse which was much too big for her. Later, when writing about going to school, Conway tells the reader that she felt carefree for the first time of her life when she went to school.

The education Conway got from her parents consisted of very British virtues. They talked British English and looked down on everybody who used the broad Australian speech. That contained the workers at Coorain which strengthened Jill’s opinion.

When Conway and her mother left Coorain, she had never gone to any school, nor had she been taught by anyone. The only knowledge she had was from books that she sometimes was too young for. When she was working with Mr. Ker, they sometimes talked about topics like if it was right to kill on some occasions or even about God. Jill did not learn conventional things children of her age learn, but therefore she learned a lot of things she could use for her life. Although she later was very shy, she was very self-reliant and never questioned herself or her work.

3. Education in Sydney

After her father’s death in 1945, Jill and her mother moved to Sydney. There Jill went to school for the very first time of her life. It was a completely new experience to her and it took three different schools to find one which they could pay and where Jill finally felt comfortable.

3.1. Queenwood school

The first school Jill visited was Queenwood School in Sydney. She had lots of difficulties there, because it was the first school she ever visited although she was eleven years old.

The school was very good equipped: there was a tennis court, a gymnasium, housing cloakrooms and many other things Jill had not seen until then. The small world of the new school experience appeared very intimidating to Jill. She did not know how play, which resulted from the fact that she had been in charge so early and that she never had a playmate before. The only ones she ever could have played with were her two brothers, but they had left Coorain for boarding school years before.

Jill felt very incompetent at Queenwood. She had to deal with too many problems she never had thought of. First she had to learn how to interact with other children. That not only contained playing, she also had to learn how to compete with them. Her other problem was finding out the right rule for every situation.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

It was not only the fact that every teacher had his or her own rules that confused Jill. Worse than that she could not always understand their sense.

After enrolling at Queenwood as a day student, Jill felt very strange. She did not know how to begin with so many other children of her age. Until that moment, she had never known any other child of her age. Because of that lack of interacting-capability Conway had a very hard time finding friends. Her loneliness was supported by the fact that she was the only bushgirl at Queenwood. That gave her the negative feeling of being something special and odd. She slowly became aware that her family circumstances were unusual. The parents of the other girls had “normal” jobs, no sorrows about money or drought and – what is also very important – lived together in the city. No one else had lost his or her father that early, and the other’s families were all near. Being different and her lack of any experiences with other children reduced Jill to “a paralysis of shyness”[3]. Additional to her that, Jill made another new experience: failing. She now was veriest incompetent and failed in games as well as in class. At Coorain she never learned how to play – neither any sports games nor just playing for fun. Queenswood now had a extensive offer of sports: basketball, tennis or others and Jill did not know any of the rules and also was ”too clumsy to play the games”[4].

Her failing in class had other but similar reasons. First of all she did not find sense in most things at school. At Coorain Conway had been taught to learn very exact details of topography so that she could find her way in an area with no signs and only few landmarks. When they learned the Canadian provinces at Queenwood she scrutinized the order in which they were learned: They were learned from east to west and no one could tell her the reason for it. None of the teachers or pupils understand why directions were important. Conway did not find any sense in the contents of class. At Coorain she was only taught things she could use in her life. Now she did not understand what use gym or ”mental arithmetic”[5] was.



[2] Jill Ker Conway (1990). The Road from Coorain. New York: Vintage. p. 87

[3] Jill Ker Conway. The Road from Coorain. p. 87

[4] Jill Ker Conway. The Road from Coorain. p. 88

[5] Jill Ker Conway. The Road from Coorain. p. 88

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Influences of the Education of Jill KerConway and its Conflicts
Technical University of Braunschweig  (English Seminar)
2,1 (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
491 KB
Influences, Education, Conflicts, Proseminar, Jill Ker Conway, Autobiograghy, Australia
Quote paper
Denise Ellinger (Author), 2004, Influences of the Education of Jill KerConway and its Conflicts, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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