Education Minister Simon Birmingham admits failing system 'needs to change' amid NAPLAN outcry
Last night 60 Minutes exposed Australia’s woefully underperforming education system and revealed how the NAPLAN standardised testing regime – brought in to lift our results – is failing.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has long been a staunch defender of the controversial NAPLAN tests but admitted to reporter Tom Steinfort the Australian education system needs to change.
For more on 60 Minutes and to watch ‘Spitting the dummy’ in full, head to the official website.
“We absolutely acknowledge that performance has not been satisfactory in terms of getting the return on investment, the growth and achievement that people would expect in Australian schools,” he said.
“That's why we want to see changes.”
After a decade of NAPLAN testing, our results as a nation have stagnated, and our international rankings have not improved. In fact, they’re going backwards.
A recent UN report card ranked Australia 39th out of 41 advanced countries when it comes to quality of schooling.
And in the OECD's latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Australian high school students are up to two school years behind their peers in science, reading and maths.
Teachers, politicians and academics are demanding NAPLAN be scrapped and are urging the federal government to drastically overhaul the Australian education system.
At an Education Council meeting in June, and under pressure from his state and territory counterparts, Minister Birmingham agreed a review would be launched into the way NAPLAN data is published – but stopped short of agreeing to scrap the entire system.
Meanwhile, Australia continues to lose valuable teachers who say the current education model is broken and the pressures of teaching are forcing them to abandon the profession.
John Antulov’s mother Trish died tragically earlier this year when she suffered a heart attack at her desk.
The coroner is investigating the school principal’s death but her son John believes without any doubt the stress of the job contributed to her death.
“I have done a lot of high stress jobs in the military, but you are equipped to deal with that specific stress,” John said.
“But I wouldn’t do (teaching). No way in the world.”
His story is an extreme case, but it highlights the pressure faced by teachers in today’s classroom. The constant focus on testing and administration is causing teachers to leave in droves.
Former teacher Gabbie Stroud walked away from her career in 2014, after witnessing the education system break too many of her colleagues.
“I could feel myself slipping away – like my actual identity slipping away – my ability to laugh and joke, and my ability to cry,” she says.
She believes the immense pressure on teachers to produce good NAPLAN results leaves them unable to do the job they were trained to do.
And if we continue to lose passionate teachers like Gabbie Stroud, the students are the ones who suffer the most.