Ditch NAPLAN Tests For System That Puts Students First: Report

May 14, 2021 Updated: May 19, 2021

The Gonski Institute for Education is calling for the government to ditch NAPLAN tests rather than reform them and replace the standardised exams with tests that put the interest of students first.

In its new report, “Putting Students First,” the Gonski Institute has proposed new sample-based testing of students that “builds trust and capacity,” moving away from NAPLAN’s census approach that has a “strong focus on accountability.”

The main proposal is to replace the current literacy and numeracy tests in years 3, 5, 7, and 9 with sample-based assessments in years 4, 6, 8, and 10 while complemented with teacher-led assessments in schools.

The report said the current system had negative education and well-being consequences due to “too much pressure” to compete in standardised tests.

It found external high-stakes tests, like NAPLAN, also pressures teachers to “teach to the test”, which reduced their sense of professional autonomy.

Professor of Education at the University of New South Wales Pasi Sahlberg said it was time to rethink what kind of national assessment system the country needed while students were sitting for the NAPLAN exam this week.

“To improve educational performance in Australia, students, schools, parents, and governments need better information about how students and their schools are performing. However, using a single test like the current NAPLAN cannot serve all of these different purposes equally well,” Sahlberg said.

Australia's Minister for Cities Alan Tudge
Education Minister Alan Tudge at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on July 9, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said in his speech outlining how to return Australian education standards to the top that NAPLAN was an important assessment that would be continually refined.

“We must protect NAPLAN and not give in to those who call for less accountability and less information for teachers and parents,” Tudge said.

New South Wales (NSW) Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said any moves to completely remove a national census standardised assessment takes away accountability and responsibility across the education system.

“NSW has made our position clear—while we strongly advocate for improvements to NAPLAN, we continue to support census testing at a national level,” Mitchell told Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) welcomed the proposal for a NAPLAN replacement which would put students “at the heart” of assessment.

“We must address the competitive, high stakes nature of NAPLAN. This report makes clear that NAPLAN’s census-based approach is deeply problematic and not fit-for-purpose,” AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said. “It is a one size fits all approach that is detrimental to students, teachers and parents.”