In late June, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland announced a joint review into the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy, known as NAPLAN. Many educators would be happy to see the end of standardised testing. But this review is no guarantee this will happen, even if NAPLAN is scrapped.
I have always found tests and exams, whether the NAPLAN or Victorian Certificate of Education, very problematic. For one thing, it only tests English and numeracy, as if other subjects are not important and do not contribute to numeracy and literacy skills. For several years, educators have known that there are different learning styles and techniques. Some people have one dominant learning style, others use different styles in different situations, and styles are not fixed.
Teachers around the country have criticised the introduction of a new national curriculum. The states have agreed to implement the new curriculum by 2013. However, the Gillard and Rudd governments have consistently pushed for this to take place by 2011. Considering that draft versions of the first curriculum documents were only released for consultation in March 2010, this was bound to end up being impossible to meet.
Lesser evilism — whereby one votes for a party defensively, because at least they are not as bad as the alternative — is a three-card trick that the Labor Party is very skilled at using. In this election campaign, the very real threat of a Tony Abbott Coalition government is allowing Labor to establish the framework of a very harsh second term while scaring voters with the warning that the alternative would be even worse.
On May 6, the federal executive of the Australian Education Union (AEU) caved in to the Labor government over the campaign against league tables and the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) ban. As the May 11-13 dates for the NAPLAN tests approached, the dispute over the AEU ban on them heated up. Teachers said the tests could be used to produce school league tables. Australian Council of Trade Unions president Sharon Burrow facilitated discussions between the AEU executive and education minister Julia Gillard.