‘Kids need the basics’: Shock NAPLAN results spark calls for teaching overhaul

The latest NAPLAN test results show that Aussie school kids are struggling more than ever with spelling and literacy. Source: Getty

When it comes to the education system, it’s fair to say things have changed a lot since Baby Boomers were lacing up their boots and heading to school. These days, while subjects have branched right out to include everything from sociology to arts and drama, it seems there’s less focus than there once was on traditional subjects like English, maths and science.

Now, the latest NAPLAN test results have been released and the findings show that Aussie school kids are struggling more than ever with spelling and literacy, with some year groups receiving the lowest ever results in that area of testing – and it’s sparking outrage right across the country. Alan Jones has since slammed the controversial government test and echoed calls from Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek that it’s time for us all to get back to basics.

Speaking on Sunrise on Wednesday morning, alongside host Sam Armytage and journalist Justin Smith, the 2GB star took aim at the test, claiming: “I think NAPLAN has outlived its usefulness. Kids can’t spell, they can’t punctuate and we’re not taught the basic stuff. Tanya Plibersek is absolutely right, she made a simple response to this… and she said we’ve got to go back to the basics if we want our kids to improve. And that’s a very simple point, we’ve lost sight of the basics.”

Jones’ comments come after Plibersek said the results were confirmation “kids need to know the basics”, as she told the AAP this morning: “It’s the foundation of the rest of their education. We can’t afford for the next generation to be held back.”

Meanwhile, Sunrise host Armytage also agreed with Jones saying that even trolls on social media who send her nasty comments can’t spell, adding: “Spelling and grammar is atrocious at the moment.” Smith, host of radio program Macqaurie Weekly, also slammed the annual test, claiming: “The NAPLAN test has been more of an anchor than it has been a sail. NAPLAN is one of the worst things we could ever do to our schools, it doesn’t help in any way, shape, or form. We need to get rid of it immediately.”

Elsewhere, Studio 10 host Kerri-Anne Kennerley joined Jones in slamming schools for missing out on core subjects, while Sarah Harris offered up another argument – claiming while they may lack core skills, they’re learning more varied ones such as ways to skim read and pick out facts at a glance. She suggested NAPLAN should broaden the test to factor in more modern ways of teaching.

Meanwhile, Joe Hildebrand claimed there’s likely been a “decade-long lag” as schools have struggled to catch up with a fast-moving digital world – as kids rely more on their phones and things like auto correct on a daily basis. He insisted teachers are now adapting however and making use of these technologies in class.

Now, University of Sydney cognitive psychology professor Sally Andrews has claimed to The Daily Telegraph that the poor results in spelling and literacy could be the “result of an increase in skim reading on screens”.  “That means that they’re not picking up on the subtleties of sentence construction and punctuation marks that occur when you read a book on paper,” she told the news outlet. “Because of the nature of the goals of the reader, whether in the classroom or their own reading, that sort of skimming strategy will reduce children’s sensitivity to punctuation and typical grammatical structures.”

The 2019 NAPLAN results revealed that there hasn’t been much – if any improvement – across core subjects like writing since 2008. While students in years 7 and 9 performed below the 2011 average for writing, kids performed better for year 5 numeracy, years 3 and 5 reading, years 3 and 5 spelling and year 3 grammar compared to the 2008 average. For other test areas, the results were close to, or not statistically significantly different, compared with last year.

People on social media have also voiced their concerns over the test, with one writing: “NAPLAN has always been a waste of time and money when it began and now. Let’s get back to proper schooling, where everyone can read, write and spell correctly and do basic mathematics. Society and teachers have lost the plot when it comes to education.”

Another added: “I don’t agree with NAPLAN at all, it needs to go. We need to focus on teaching children what is needed and not just to do well on tests.” While a third wrote: “Why can’t we go back to old school learning, I came out of 50/60s schooling & I can read & write, my 13 year grandson cannot even speak proper grammar he says “I brung it home” & things like that.”

Meanwhile, it comes after it was revealed that some parents are choosing to “unschool” their kids, essentially meaning they shun traditional subjects, like maths, English and science, and instead plan their lessons based on what their children are interested in at that time. And nowadays, you’re more likely to see a child meditating in the ‘quiet corner’ than getting a whack across the knuckles with a ruler.

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