While there’s an abundance of stories about the viability of NAPLAN as a measure of student achievement, few studies have been done on how the NSW public perceive the controversial assessment.
However, two interrelated studies that were recently undertaken have shed shed light on the current sentiment towards NAPLAN, and the underlying factors that shape public opinions about the assessment among the people of NSW.
According to the findings, published in a research brief from the University of NSW (UNSW), a majority of the study’s participants still hold a negative view of NAPLAN, with most (61%) holding the view that there is excessive emphasis on the test.
Moreover, members of the general public in NSW seek to evaluate NAPLAN, assessing whether it provides benefits and serves the self-interest of stakeholders such as parents/carers and members of society.
Just 35% of those surveyed consider that NAPLAN contributes to the improvement of education for all students, while less (33%) perceive that NAPLAN promotes educational equity. Half (50%) said it does not assess important aspects of education.
“The research findings indicate that the NSW public holds the belief that NAPLAN contributes to an excessive focus on the narrow domains of literacy and numeracy in Australia's education system,” Jihyun Lee, A Professor of Educational Assessment & AI in Education at UNSW, told The Educator.
“It is acknowledged by the public that education encompasses more than just these two domains, and the omission of other subjects such as Arts, drama, and physical education from the national assessment scheme sends an imbalanced and detrimental message to young children and their families.”
Furthermore, says Professor Lee, the NSW public recognises the importance of young students' social-emotional development, which requires careful monitoring and adequate nurturing within the school environment.
“The exclusive prioritization of literacy and numeracy within the national assessment scheme undermines the crucial role played by the social-emotional aspects of schooling.”
Professor Lee said more work needs to be done to ensure the assessment is adapted to better support the needs of underachieving and low-performing students.
“While acknowledging that the national assessment scheme does provide valuable insights for certain students and parents, the public expressed profound concerns regarding its impact on underachieving and low-performing students, as well as those facing long-term or short-term psychological challenges such as anxiety and depression,” she said.
“Neglecting the needs of the vulnerable populations goes against the principles of inclusivity and fairness that are integral to Australian values. It is imperative for the national assessment scheme to address this issue promptly by developing an alternative measure that caters to the diverse needs of different student groups.”
Professor Lee said that as NAPLAN in the current form focuses solely on literacy and numeracy, it becomes the responsibility of parents and carers to instill in their children the understanding that learning and education extend beyond these two domains.
“Parents and carers play a vital role in recognising and nurturing their children's talents and abilities, ensuring that their learning journey aligns with their individual needs,” she said.
“Presently, NAPLAN falls short in addressing the unique requirements of each student. It is through the collective efforts of parents, caregivers, schools, and the community that young students can be guided toward fulfilling their aspirations.”