If I Had To Suffer Sports Day, The Sporty Kids Have To Suffer NAPLAN
Yesterday, kids all around Australia opened up their test booklets (or loaded them on their computer screens) and commenced the first day of a three-day testing period for NAPLAN.
NAPLAN, which stands for National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy, tests Australian kids every two years from year three to year nine and aims to assess where the nation’s young minds are ranking in comparison to their international peers. It is also used to assess whether an individual student is performing above or below the national average of their peers and can be used to assess how schools are performing in comparison to the average.
Every year there is a national hubbub from parents, students, teachers, policy makers and education experts alike about the merit of NAPLAN tests. There are a number of issues with the scheme -- private schools will often set their prices based on their NAPLAN scores (and accept kids based on their NAPLAN schools), they cause teachers to teach ‘to the test’, often meaning that skills like critical thinking and creativity are neglected, teachers are under a great deal of extra pressure from parents… the list goes on (and on).
On top of this, multiple experts have pointed out that NAPLAN is actually an incredibly poor assessment tool, and does not adequately assess how our students are faring.
But, every time someone comes out in opposition of NAPLAN, they always start and end with ‘just think of the children!’
Just think of the children? Bullshit.
There are lots of different types of kids in Australian schools. There are sporty kids, dramatic kids, musical kids, arty kids, bookish kids, foodie kids, kids who love to dance… and there are smart kids.
I was a smart kid and let me tell you now, NAPLAN was akin to my Christmas.
It was the one week of the year that being smart was a coveted position to be in. The one week that you were revered, not teased, for your natural ability to spell words or do maths sums. It was my time to shine in Australia’s education system. Everyone threw tall poppy syndrome out the window, and I got to be unashamedly clever.
I was not only a smart kid, I was also a short, unathletic, not particularly artistically talented kid. Events like ‘athletics day’, ‘swimming day’, ‘music day’, ‘art exhibition week’, ‘book week’, and ‘the school play’ were not fun for me. And when it came to the one I particularly loathed (sports day), I would feel quite stressed and anxious, and mum would usually only send me for half the day.
Sometimes, when you are part of a standardised education system (and also in life), you have to do things that you don’t like. That are a bit stressful. That are hard and not enjoyable. And other times, you get to do stuff that you are good at, that makes you feel confident and happy and reminds you what it is about you that makes you different, in a good way. For me, that was NAPLAN day.
So, if your kid finds NAPLAN that stressful -- don’t send them. It’s not a compulsory test, just like sports day is not a compulsory day.
Give them a pyjama day, send them to their grandparents, teach them how to plant something in the garden. If they are happy, healthy and well cared for, I don’t mind.
If you need to get rid of NAPLAN, fine. Most of the experts and educators seem to agree that it is a poorly designed test that leads to unintended negative outcomes.
But don’t tell me that it needs to be cancelled ‘for the kids’ -- let the smart ones have their time to shine.