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Failure to Meet Minimum Education Standards: A Concerning Reality for One-Third of Australian Students

One-third of the 1.3 million Australian students who sat the NAPLAN exam failed to meet its new benchmarks in literacy and numeracy.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority (ACARA) revealed on Aug. 23 that around 10 percent of students across the country need additional support in literacy and numeracy.

Another 23 percent of students are “developing,” or working towards meeting NAPLAN expectations, ACARA said.

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This compares to the 7 percent who did not meet the minimum standard last year.

It comes after NAPLAN introduced four new proficiency standards: Exceeding, Strong (meets expectation), Developing, and Needs additional support.

Education Minister Jason Clare said these results reflect how standards for NAPLAN have been raised.

“We have done this on purpose,” he said in a statement.

“We have raised the minimum standard students are now expected to meet so we can really identify the students who need additional support.

“The next step is to provide them with that support.”

Early identification and intervention for a student falling behind is critical, with research showing that very few students who fall behind are able to catch up and continue to perform.

“Only one-in-five students who are behind the minimum standard in literacy and numeracy in Year 3 are above it in Year 9. This is what we have got to fix,” Mr. Clare said.

Australian Education Minister Jason Clare speaks during the Universities Australia Conference dinner at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Feb. 22, 2023. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Australian Education Minister Jason Clare speaks during the Universities Australia Conference dinner at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Feb. 22, 2023. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

‘National Embarrassment’: Opposition

When broken down into different demographics, living location and the education of the child’s parents play a significant role in determining whether a student will fall behind in school.

Among the students in need of additional support, half live in very remote locations, around one-third were Indigenous students, and a quarter had parents who did not complete high school.

This is reflected in the performance broken down by state, with the Northern Territory (NT) lagging behind other jurisdictions by a significant margin. Many students in the NT are of Indigenous background and live in rural or very remote areas.

Among Year 3 students in NT, over 35 percent need additional support in numeracy and 25 percent are developing. The numbers are similar for literacy.

This is compared to Queensland, the state with the next lowest average NAPLAN score, which has around 13 percent of students who need additional support for numeracy and literacy.

Senator Sarah Henderson, the opposition spokesperson for education, called the results an “utter debacle.”

“The latest NAPLAN results confirm the Opposition’s deep concerns that declining school standards have become a national embarrassment,” she said.

“In failing to mandate evidence-based teaching and learning including explicit instruction in every Australian classroom, the Albanese government and the mainland states and territories are failing students.”

Ms. Henderson said urgent action to adopt best-practice teaching methods and reverse the falling standards

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