Education is a major element of any society, and Australia has a wide range of issues regarding various aspects of the given sector. One of the critical components of national standardized testing is the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). It aims to conduct annual assessments for primary and secondary year students. Although the approach is similar to many nations, NAPLAN’s integration into the Australian education system was met with certain concerns regarding its plausibility. Therefore, these major educational reforms and programs can have side effects. NAPLAN reinforces social inequalities through stakeholder pressure, legal inconsistencies, misunderstanding of testing, and poor evaluative measures.
NAPLAN is a national assessment and standardized testing procedure, which targets primary and secondary school students. It primarily conducts an annual analysis of learners in years 3, 5, 7, and 9 (“NAPLAN,” 2016). The test does not intend to measure individual school quality or performance. There four main domains within the assessment, such as numeracy, language conventions, writing, and reading (“NAPLAN,” 2016). Although NAPLAN is designed for teachers and parents in order to show them their children’s literacy and fundamental skills, there are certain concerns regarding its usefulness. One study claims that the overall benefit of the assessments is limited, and the implications do not justify the total cost (Carter et al., 2015). In other words, the program is highly expensive because it involves preparation and test administration expenses. Therefore, the resources allocated for NAPLAN do not bring significant value.
In the case of social inequalities, the given standardized testing procedure resulted in a number of unintended consequences, which reinforce social inequality. For example, the main issues with NAPLAN are the creation of a preparation industry, narrowing of the curriculum, and the adverse impact on students (Johnston, 2017). The emergence of the sector means that people with low socioeconomic status have fewer resources to allocate for preparing their children to the exams, whereas wealthier children can have access to such services. This means that poorer kids will have a reduced level of performance compared to richer counterparts.
Social inequalities are also propagated by the notion of stress and pressure put on stakeholders, which are comprised of students, teachers, and parents. It is stated that NAPLAN has a negative impact on these individuals, where the test creates severe distress (Rogers et al., 2016). The evidence suggests that NAPLAN has a moderate positive correlation with teacher and parent distress and a small positive correlation with student distress (Rogers et al., 2016). In other words, it is evident that such pressure can further worsen social inequality because people with lower socioeconomic status experience higher levels of stress due to a lack of resources. The test emphasizes the given aspect, and the general accumulation of pressure will inevitably be reflected in the health and well-being of these households.
Social inequality can be promoted by the fact that people with higher socioeconomic status can have access to better schools and educators. It is stated that NAPLAN should put a great deal of emphasis on teachers’ criterial knowledge during the testing procedures (Wyatt-Smith & Jackson, 2016). The main reason is that a child’s capability and performance are directly related to the educator’s approaches and techniques, and thus, the latter’s influence is a critical factor. In addition, there are major NAPLAN-related issues in the case of students with disabilities because the interpretations of regulations were highly inconsistent across jurisdictions (Lingard et al., 2016). In other words, a student with a specific disability might be recognized in one place as such, but in another location, he or she will no longer be considered as a person with a disability. Therefore, it creates a certain form of disadvantage for some children, where they are inconsistently exempted or forced to undergo the assessment.
Purpose of Testing
The main mistake in the development and use of NAPLAN tests is rooted in understanding the meaning of testing in education. Correct testing gives an objective idea of the quality being assessed, and this is its main and only task (Stein, 2016). All other influences of testing on knowledge are more or less significant consequences of the objectivity of tests. Thus, gradually in Australian education, a certain view of examinations and testing has matured, and this is the receipt of objective information about academic performance. However, in order to receive accurate information that is the only one suitable for effective management of learning, it is necessary that the tests would be pedagogically correct. They must meet the general and particular requirements for them developed to date. Unfortunately, this issue in NAPLAN testing is not fully complete as in every new educational endeavor, because socially marginalized groups tend to be undermined more by the program (Stein, 2016). It is important to understand that any original method of activity and restructuring of consciousness requires a large mass of teachers and education leaders to seriously and deeply master the relevant knowledge and skills.
The next gross pedagogical mistake is an attempt to characterize such a complex pedagogical phenomenon as the quality of teaching and the assimilation of knowledge with a single complex test conducted in artificially created stressful conditions. The issue disproportionately affects individuals with lower socioeconomic status compared to higher ones (Stein, 2016). It also manifests itself when using the oversimplification and efficiency. The fact is that the learning process, as any other process initiated by a person, always unfolds gradually in time. The beginning and end of each stage of activity are limited to some measure of the effect produced at that stage. The use of pre-NAPLAN methods of subjective monitoring of progress is a return to previous problems and recognition of their imperious failure (Stein, 2016). It is clear that overcoming this error has a destructive effect on the education system. This is, first of all, expressed in the assimilation of a pedagogically correct idea of the concept of a test.
Secondly, this is the introduction into the practice of education of pedagogically proper methods of using tests in learning processes. If one is analyzed by any other types of human intelligent activity, then in a massive form, tests of various shapes are used to control and manage processes. It is important to note that a specific statement crystallizes as a general definition of assessment (Lingard et al., 2016). From the above description, it follows that any conceivable control procedure, regardless of the form of its presentation to the subject, can be called a test. However, this is applicable only if this control procedure is accompanied by an externally presented and accessible to the student standard of its complete and correct, phased implementation. If the task is offered to the subject in any form, and the framework is contained only in the head of the controller in a reduced and abbreviated form, then such a control procedure is not a test (Stein, 2016). The presence and accessibility of the standard to the student ensure the objectivity of control.
The system of centralized testing in Australia might, in the future, create an opportunity for federal and regional education authorities to assess the quality of education in the country as a whole and in its individual regions for various types of educational institutions. It is necessary to evaluate and adjust the content of knowledge in order to improve academic standards, to make informed management decisions, as well as rationally direct financial flows in the education system (Stein, 2016). However, the current situation does not show the signs of this type of implementation.
One should note that the skillful combination of testing and teaching gives rise to new educational technology. This technology combines the practice of using test items and the theory of pedagogical measurements, the use of computers and computer programs, automated teaching, and control, monitoring of current educational achievements, elements of textual criticism (Stein, 2016). Special courses on measurements were not included in the state academic standards for vocational education in the field of personnel training. The institutes for advanced training of educators, as a rule, organize lectures and seminars on the problems of testing, certification, and monitoring (Lingard et al., 2016). However, this work in conditions of a shortage of qualified personnel, necessary literature, and software cannot be considered satisfactory.
In conclusion, the Australian education system possesses a wide range of reforms and legislations that both improve and hurt the population. In the case of NAPLAN, it is evident that it yields a number of negative implications on stakeholders, such as students, teachers, and parents. They experience severe distress, and the ones with lower socioeconomic status might lag behind wealthier people because the latter can utilize the benefits of the preparation industry. Therefore, NAPLAN reinforces social inequality, whereas it does not reduce marginalization.
Carter, M. G., Klenowski, V., & Chalmers, C. (2015). Who pays for standardised testing? A cost-benefit study of mandated testing in three Queensland secondary schools. Journal of Education Policy, 31(3), 330–342. Web.
Johnston, J. (2017). Australian NAPLAN testing: In what ways is this a ‘wicked’ problem? Improving Schools, 20(1), 18–34. Web.
Lingard, B., Thompson, G., & Sellar, S. (Eds). (2016). National testing in schools: An Australian assessment. Routledge.
NAPLAN. (2016). Web.
Rogers, S. L., Barblett, L., & Robinson, K. (2016). Investigating the impact of NAPLAN on student, parent and teacher emotional distress in independent schools. The Australian Educational Researcher, 43(3), 327–343. Web.
Stein, Z. (2016). Social justice and educational measurement: John Rawls, the history of testing, and the future of education. Routledge.
Wyatt-Smith, C., & Jackson, C. (2016). NAPLAN data on writing: A picture of accelerating negative change. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 39(3), 233–244. Web.