NAPLAN. It’s that time of year again – for me, this is the last year I will ever have to think about that word. Kids have already started talking about it, teachers have already starting preparing us for it, some students are already stressing about it. All this fuss made me think – At the time that I take the test it always seems important, but what on earth is NAPLAN actually for? What do I, the student, get out of it in the end? A dot on a line.
I am no expert in education, but I know enough to be able to tell that Australia’s current education system is far from perfect. Think about where our National Curriculum is coming from – The ACARA – the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Of course, this Authority call upon teachers, academics and apparently parents and kids to have a say in the developing curriculum. But ultimately, politicians are the ones funding the schools so they have the final word. Surely, the politicians controlling our learning are experienced education professionals! Not the case. Simon Birmingham, the Federal Minister for education, has only been in the education system for two years. And the state Minister for Education has two degrees, Economics and Law! In fact, most politicians haven’t been inside a classroom since they left school. And yet they hold a lot of control in deciding what and how the children of Australia are learning. The government insists that all schools do NAPLAN, and if these schools want to rank well on the heavily publicized My School Website, they have to play the game and teach what is in the test, which ultimately crushes individuality and stifles the student’s interest in learning.
Surely the most important things to learn are how to think creatively, be compassionate, how to use initiative, how to take care of the environment and ourselves. And yet these skills are not a school’s priority, because you can’t test them. In reality, standardized tests, such as NAPLAN can only tell a minute amount of information about a child. It’s like asking every animal in Australia to climb a tree, and whoever gets to the top first is the best. It’s ‘fair’ because every animal is taking the same test. But it doesn’t make sense, does it. A bird will easily beat a dog up a tree, but it doesn’t mean that the bird is better than the dog.This scenario is far too familiar in school life. Many children feel like failures because they don’t get the same marks as the people around them. In reality, every child is completely different, and that student who has never passed a Maths test may be the kindest, or most creative person in the class.
What is the solution to this education fault? Finland has found the answer. Here, the teachers control the curriculum and politicians have nothing to do with students. The education system in Finland has completely discarded standardized testing. This has proven successful, with Finland being one of the top countries in education success rates. Hopefully Australia will come to see the benefits of an education system free from dots on lines.
It’s time that we stop looking at children as data. Because in reality, it’s not the children failing NAPLAN, it’s the education system failing the children.