Kelly Higgins-Devine: But let’s get, shall we, to Dan Tehan, the Federal Education Minister. Dan Tehan, good morning.
Dan Tehan: Morning, Kelly. How are you?
Higgins-Devine: Good. Look, how likely is it that NAPLAN will be replaced, in early September, or scrapped?
Tehan: Yeah. From a Commonwealth point of view, we want to see NAPLAN continue. It enables us to get a measure of what’s occurring in our education system right across the nation. It enables us to put in place best practice and, most importantly, it provides, for parents, transparency of outcomes and results, so they can see how their children are going. It’s an incredibly important research tool for us, which will enable us to address the decline in standards that we’re seeing, and make sure that we’ve got the right practices in place to improve our education system.
Higgins-Devine: Can I put to you, Minister, that after 12 years, if standards are declining, then NAPLAN isn’t working? That it’s, that it’s a failed system, if things haven’t improved?
Tehan: Well, no. NAPLAN is designed to enable us to measure what’s occurring, so we can get the improvements in place, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. It’s why we’ve got this major review of the curriculum being undertaken at the moment, with a real focus on maths and science. It’s why, for instance, the Commonwealth Government has put a voluntary phonics test in place, which we announced a couple of weeks ago, so we can start to measure the literacy of our children, to see whether they’re getting the skills they need to be able to read and write. All these things we’re able to do and get a sense of, is a result of NAPLAN. We’re able to see where good teaching methods are getting the outcomes and results, and then we can use those across states and territories to drive improvements in outcomes. Without that, we have no way of being able to see what’s happening within our school system.
Higgins-Devine: Minister, can I put to you that, I, as I said a little bit earlier this afternoon, I’ve been watching this for 12 years, and the same schools are at the top of the tables, the same schools are at the bottom of the tables, the same states are in the same order that they’ve already been, always been for 12 years. Nothing’s changed. Nothing, there is no, and you would get these results through for your child after they’d almost finished the year. You couldn’t address them during that school year. It’s a slow, ineffective system, and it hasn’t changed dot, really. And, you’re doing more tests after the test. You mentioned that phonics test. So, we’re doing another test about phonics to test phonics, after we’ve already tested them. Why bother?
Tehan: Well, why bother? Because our, the education of our children is absolutely vital for our nation’s future …
Higgins-Devine: … Yeah. But, why do another test? …
Tehan: … That’s why, that’s why we’re, we’re bothering. And, why, why we want to be able to have NAPLAN in place is because we want to see where there are improvements, and we have seen improvements. We’ve seen schools where there’s been remarkable improvements. We’ve seen states – Western Australia and Queensland over the 12 years – we’ve seen improvements in both those states, and we want to be able to keep monitoring that. Now, one of the things we’re moving to is NAPLAN online, and the hope of the Commonwealth is, is moving to NAPLAN online will enable us to get the results back a lot quicker. And, that means that, that parents will be able to more readily, with their schools, with their teachers, be able to address issues if they arise. And, the move to NAPLAN online will give us another enhancement to NAPLAN, which will enable us to move with greater speed. There is no question that we can take steps to continue to improve NAPLAN, but we cannot get rid of such an important tool which helps us measure where our education system is at.
Higgins-Devine: Is it the best tool? You talk about best practice, and that’s fair enough. I understand what you’re saying, Federal Minister Dan Tehan. But, is it the best tool? Is there some tool other in the world that is actually better than NAPLAN?
Tehan: Well, ministers have had a look at what, what else takes place across the globe, and NAPLAN is regarded as one of the best tools for measuring how our children are going at school. There are not many others which are preferred. The only other way you could do it is by taking a sample. But, what all the studies have shown is by being able to get a complete survey of all students in the nation, we get a much better result in being able to look at what’s occurring. It’s a much better tool for research. And, in the end, it’s going to help us drive improvements. That’s what we need. Now, there are other things, of course. The previous caller was talking about the need for us to make sure that there’s respect for teachers, respect for principals and, you know, respect for our teaching workforce. And, that’s, that’s another thing that, obviously, all of us need to work on, as well. So, it’s, it’s not the silver bullet, but it enables us to measure what is occurring.
Higgins-Devine: Isn’t it also just a way of setting state against state? And, also, because you get those league tables, they come out, then it’s just a fight that goes on on the front pages of newspapers all around the country, about who’s doing better, who’s doing worse, who hasn’t improved. It’s, that’s what it descends to.
Tehan: Yeah. Look, I don’t think it sets state against state. I think, you know, when Education Council looks at all these things, which is the gathering of all state and territory education ministers with the Commonwealth, there’s a real desire to want to improve our education system across the board. And, one of the things we’re looking at the moment, for instance, is to make it a lot easier for teachers to be able to move between states and territories to take up different work. So, I don’t think …
Higgins-Devine: … I don’t think they want to move from here at the moment, Minister.
Tehan: No. No, well, that’s, that’s very true. As a Victorian …
Higgins-Devine: … But, it won’t be forever …
Tehan: … you might have a few teachers heading your way to Queensland. So, we might have teacher shortages down here.
Tehan: But, no, you’re very, very true in that regard. But, the, look, and what you see with the leagues tables, the media will put them into leagues tables, and one of the things that we’ve been looking at from an Education Council point of view, is to see whether we can move away from how the data is presented, so it’s not so, it’s not clearly done in a way where you can develop leagues tables. So, that’s one of the challenges we’ve got, because it’s a tool that we want schools to be able to use to help improve the outcomes for children. That’s what it’s designed to do, and for us all to be able to get a measure as to how well, as a nation, we’re doing in educating our children. So, that’s what we want it to be used as, and that’s why the Commonwealth supports NAPLAN so strongly.
Higgins-Devine: Dan Tehan, thank you very much for your time this morning.
Tehan: It’s been a pleasure. Thanks, Kelly.
Higgins-Devine: Dan Tehan, Federal Education Minister, on ABC Radio Brisbane.