The results are in and it's time to find a NAPLAN alternative

Student sits an exam

NAPLAN, the national test designed to help improve the literacy and numeracy skills of school children is no longer in the best interest of young Australians, according to the latest report commissioned by the Whitlam Institute (opens in a new window) within the University of Western Sydney.

The report, The Experience of Education (opens in a new window), was undertaken for the Whitlam Institute by Professor Johanna Wyn and her colleagues at the Youth Research Centre (opens in a new window) at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

NAPLAN has taken on a life of its own, despite claims that it is no more than a simple diagnostic tool, the researchers say. It has spawned a small industry in coaching and in the production and sale of NAPLAN guides, sample tests and resources.

Over the last three years the Whitlam Institute has sought to examine the impacts of ‘high stakes’ testing on school students and their families through a progression of studies beginning with the original international literature review (opens in a new window) (January 2012) and followed by a survey of teachers (opens in a new window) (November 2012) and a survey of parents (opens in a new window) (November 2013).

This latest Whitlam Institute report, possibly the most significant to date, throws further light on both attitudes towards and implications of NAPLAN.

In 2013 Professor Johanna Wyn’s team spent time in five communities (three in Victoria and two in NSW) speaking to Principals, teachers and parents. Most importantly, for the first time, they also interviewed students themselves.

The report’s authors conclude that “Although NAPLAN testing is designed to improve the quality of education children and young people receive in Australia, its implementation, uses and misuses mean that it undermines quality education, and it does harm that is not in the best interests of Australian children.”

Eric Sidoti, Director of the Whitlam Institute, says it is the time to rethink NAPLAN and initiate a national debate on alternative approaches.

“There is no escaping the seriousness of the report’s conclusion. Any educational reform, regardless of good faith or noble intent that is not in the best interests of the students is a failed reform,” he says.

“It is time to open the debate. We need to ensure that the development of literacy and numeracy in our schools is assessed and reported upon in a way that enhances rather than constrains pedagogy, that evokes confidence and enthusiasm among educators rather than resignation that challenges and encourages learning rather than induces widespread anxiety and stress among students.”

For interviews and more information please contact:

Amy Sambrooke, Communications Manager, Whitlam Institute, 0421 784 253 or (02) 9685 9072

Lyn Danninger, Media Officer, University of Western Sydney, 0414 308 7019 or (02) 9678 7589