NAPLAN must go

The announcement by the NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell, that she will be calling on the Education Council to undertake a full review of NAPLAN, with a view to replacing it, will be welcomed by teachers and principals across Australia.

This is a significant and timely development, which reflects the concerns that have been expressed constantly by the teaching profession over the last decade.

We now call on ministers of education across Australia, including the federal minister, to back Sarah Mitchell’s call.

In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW Minister argues, “In 2019 it is clear that a diagnostic test must be on demand, it must be linked to the curriculum [and] it must focus on student growth…”

As the Minister quite rightly observes, NAPLAN has none of those characteristics.

NAPLAN is a crude, unsophisticated and damaging test, developed by commercial interests, that has come to dominate the classroom experiences of young people and their teachers. In doing so, the test has supplanted the syllabuses, led to a narrowing of the curriculum, privileged low level drills over complex skills, created a test cramming industry, drowned schools in unreliable data, and, arguably, led to a decline in student outcomes.

It certainly is time for this flawed test to go. We could do so much better.

However, those vested and commercial interests that have been responsible for NAPLAN over the past decade must not be allowed any role in the development of any new sophisticated assessment tools. If assessment, including testing, is to serve the educational needs of children, it must be developed by teachers.

Now is the time for every education minister across Australia to proclaim their trust in the teaching profession.

⁠— Maurie Mulheron