A LEADING education expert from the University of Canberra believes rural and regional students are disadvantaged by standardised NAPLAN testing.
With NAPLAN testing set to commence next week, UC academic Dr Phillip Roberts says the testing should be modified to be less discriminatory towards rural students.
Dr Roberts, who is also the national convener of the Rural Education Special Interest Group for the Australian Association for Research in Education, said some questions in the test were too metropolitan-focused for regional students.
“Previous questions have asked students to write about ‘a day at the beach’ or answer a numeracy question based on a train timetable,” he said.
“Many rural students have never been to a beach or used a train timetable – so how can they be expected to demonstrate their learning in the same way that city kids do?
“We need to ensure that if we are truly interested in the capabilities of our students that we assess them in a way that does not discriminate against them.
“Statistically, rural students are behind their metropolitan peers and are less likely to complete Year 12, but students often say that Year 12 is not relevant to their lives and future work and they would have to leave town to complete their final year anyway.”
Baranduda Primary School principal Allyson Dixon said prior preparation was more beneficial for students, rather than altering the content of the NAPLAN tests.
“It is crucial that schools and families work together to support students to perform at their best in these assessment situations, just as they are encouraged to do so in all learning activities,” Ms Dixon said.
“Many schools have extensive programs in place that assist to prepare students to perform at their best under these conditions as well as preparing them for the methodology around these tests.
“These programs and processes are designed to help students become familiar with the format of NAPLAN tests as well as becoming confident in the skills and strategies of working under test conditions.
“The key to NAPLAN is great long-term preparation and engagement in learning which allows students to be very confident in their abilities.”
Dr Roberts said efforts needed to be made to combat the perception of rural students being disadvantaged, despite statistics showing those same students were behind their city peers and less likely to complete year 12.
“Students often say that Year 12 is not relevant to their lives and future work,” he said.
“The traditional perception of rural education is one of disadvantage.
“This is because school achievement, completion and access to further study are always measured in relation to the city.
“Rural children sit the same NAPLAN tests and the same senior school curriculum exams.
“This may seem like common sense but it raises the question of the appropriateness of these measures, and the values they embody.”