NAPLAN: The Olympics for Children

When I was little, I took the AIMS test (now NAPLAN). It didn’t have all the pomp and circumstance that it has now. In fact, I believe at one point, it was actually a surprise! Horrible I know, how dare our teachers spring a test on us that’s actually designed to test our aptitude without training for it. After all, isn’t the premise behind the NAPLAN test? To determine where a student is at in their education?

I’ve started to liken the NAPLAN test to the Olympics for children. They train for it, using special books designed to guide them through the preseason. And after weeks of training, the big event comes around and like any athlete, they’re stressed because everything they’ve done rides on this one event. That’s right, grade threes are stressed. I don’t think that at grade three I even knew what stress was: I was more worried about what materials I was going to use for my art project. Out of nowhere, these tests became so scary, that children are actually breaking down and crying. I remember crying once: I had broken my arm.

Stress like this shouldn’t be a part of primary school. High school, yes, but it should be reserved for subject tests or year 12 exams, not NAPLAN. Forgive me, but I thought that primary school should be about having fun. It’s all about making lifetime friends, projects on things like the life cycle of a butterfly and scoring free treats at the canteen. I do admit, when we had a spelling test I studied, but if you didn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world. You got things wrong, and that was okay. There was no stress.

In saying this, I don’t believe that it should be entirely scrapped. I believe, if implemented and used correctly, it could give a very good snapshot as to where a child is in their learning process. Whether the results are good or bad, it shouldn’t matter and in no way should a child feel like they’re letting anyone down. Instead, the results need to be taken into account and education plans should be structured accordingly.

Obviously this idea is a long way off as it calls for major structural changes in schools as well as more funding for education. However if there is enough support around such an initiative, can’t we start making small steps in the right direction?

No child should feel stressed over a small test, especially in primary school years. It shouldn’t be as scary as it’s made out to be and there should be no pressure on the child to do well. Instead, it should be reintroduced as a simple tool to measure aptitude. Nothing more, nothing less.

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