NAPLAN (National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy) is a point-in-time assessment conducted nationwide that allows parents to track their child’s progress against the national standards, in literacy and numeracy skills. These are fundamental skills in the academic journey of any child. These assessments provide useful insight into the student’s progress and help schools to focus teaching on specific areas of need.
These assessments were first introduced in the year 2008 by the then Education Minister, Ms. Julia Gillard. Since 2010, NAPLAN is conducted by ACARA.
Although the assessments are recommended and recognized by educators across the country, these results are only one aspect of the school’s assessment and reporting process. They do not and cannot replace the teacher’s insight into any child’s educational progress.
What are the Eligibility Criteria for NAPLAN?
Students of 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th grades can take the NAPLAN Tests. All students of the recommended age group are expected to take the test but parents/caretakers can withdraw their child from the test after discussing it with the school.
An exemption may also be granted for students with a primary language background other than English. Students with any learning disability and/or with significant limiting, co-existing conditions may also be exempted. Adjustments in the form of support and assistance can be given to the disabled students appearing for the test. Adjustments can vary in type and form, for every domain of assessment.
Withdrawals or absences must be informed and discussed with the school.
What is the official goal of NAPLAN?
NAPLAN is considered to be the path to learner’s excellence. It specifically focuses on the application of problem-solving and life skills. These skills are useful in the academic world as well as in life.
According to the founder of this exam ( Ms. Julia Gillard), the exam was based on a holistic approach of assessing student’s reading, writing, comprehensive and creative skills that are important for anyone to excel in.
How and when are NAPAN tests conducted?
NAPLAN tests are conducted nationwide every year in May at schools and are supervised by teachers and other school authorities. The protocols for the smooth administration of these tests are made by ACARA guidelines to the relevant state, territories, and non-governmental authorities
NAPLAN tests covers four domains:-
1) Reading: This test is all about assessing a student’s reading and comprehension skills of the language. The complexity of vocabulary and difficulty level of the text genres typically increases from 3rd – 9th year.
2) Writing: Students are given a writing stimulus to test their ability to combine language, writing, and imagination, in a short concise, and original text.
3) Language convention: This is used to assess the child’s command of Australian English, grammar, spelling, and comprehension.
4) Numeracy: This assesses the mathematical fluency and problem-solving capacity of students.
NAPLAN scores are reported using five scales- one each for the three domains, that is reading, writing, and numeracy; and, one each for two subdivisions of a language convention. The weightage of the band markings on these scales also varies for each level of the school year.
These scales help parents and teachers of the students to understand the development of their performance and skills.
How to prepare for NAPLAN?
Authorities and teachers deny any preparation for NAPLAN. ACARA suggests that the best way to prepare for NAPLAN is by learning through the Australian curriculum followed by the schools. They don’t encourage excessive drilling and cramming, rather NAPLAN assesses literacy and numeracy skills acquired overtime through daily learning.
However, teachers would prepare students for NAPLAN by ensuring that they understand the format of the test and that they receive appropriate support and guidance.
Parents could visit the NAP website if they wish to see previous years’ sample papers and answers. The ACARA recommends various online resources for the preparation of NAPLAN. However, it still is considered best to guide students throughout the year to develop their skills.
Pros and Cons of NAPLAN Tests:
Various resources have cited the following benefits of NAPLAN:
- Helps parents in tracking the academic progress of their child and provides evidence to discuss with their teachers and compare their performance on a national level.
- Helps teachers identify and support students who are lagging and help them to improve their performance.
- Helps school and government authorities to implement improvement policies.
- Schools and educators can identify strengths and improve on weaknesses and teaching programs and can also chart individual student’s progress.
- It can provide data that helps in indicating gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous student’s gender-based achievements, it can also point out a particular student’s progress from one test to another.
However, many educators and parents feel that NAPLAN needs to be reappraised. The issues that need to be addressed are:
- The results are announced too late to be useful to schools, teachers, and students for that particular academic year.
- It does not cover other life skills such as lateral and creative thinking.
- The curriculum is narrowed down to focus on literacy and numeracy skills. It does not cover other areas of education such as creative and applied sciences, innovation, and above all, joy of learning.
To sum up, the NAPLAN tests the core skills every child needs to sail through the academic journey. It also helps educational institutes in creating benchmarks for learning and establishing expectations around age-appropriate academic standards. It also holds educators, schools, and governments accountable for it.
These are undeniably important for evaluating the performance and skill standards of students across Australia.
While it is not mandatory for every child to sit in these tests, it is recommended by educationists that students take these tests, so that they could be given better help to equip themselves for the world.
The Australian education ministry is re-envisioning these assessments to become more relevant to future generations, by making them online.