ACTA submission to Senate Inquiry into NAPLAN

To Whom It May Concern

The Westralian Association for the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (WATESOL), the peak body for TESOL education in Western Australia, fully endorses the submission made by the Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA) to the Senate Inquiry into the effectiveness of the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN): (Scroll down to Submission #79)

WATESOL councillors and members, many of whom possess extensive educational qualifications and expertise in the field of English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D), have provided input to that submission and reviewed and endorsed its content.

 WATESOL recognises the reasoning behind the implementation of NAPLAN and the need to ensure educational literacy and numeracy programs across educational systems are accountable; however, like ACTA, WATESOL has grave concerns that this accountability is measured through NAPLAN testing, particularly for this cohort of students. WATESOL acknowledges other Australian documents that accurately reflect progress in language acquisition for EAL/D students.  Indeed, for the past decade, WA has been at the forefront of EAL/D education in Australia.  The West Australian Department of Education’s ESL/ESD Progress Map is one such monitoring tool for K-10 EAL/D English language learners. 

 As the NAPLAN assessments measure “test literacy” in reading/viewing and writing, to the exclusion of speaking and listening, WATESOL believes that NAPLAN is not achieving its stated objectives, especially when considering EAL/D students. The NAPLAN test, which is based on the language learning continuum generally displayed by first language speakers, does not accurately reflect the ability of those who learn in and through an additional language, as the examples outlined by the ACTA submission clearly show. WATESOL also believes that by their very nature, NAPLAN tests are culturally skewed towards white, middle-class, Anglo-Saxon conceptualisations and, therefore, disadvantage learners from diverse cultural backgrounds who have had little opportunity to acquire such conceptualisations. 

 WATESOL believes that NAPLAN, in its present form, is incapable of providing valid and accurate information about EAL/D students’ progress in literacy and numeracy and would like to advocate for alternative methods, based on research and best practice, to achieve this aim for these students. 

 ACARA has, to this date, acknowledged the need for additional time and support for EAL/D learners in the Diversity of Learners preface of each curriculum document and yet, in NAPLAN, no such concessions are made.  WATESOL requests that this acknowledgement be enacted by providing appropriate concessions for these learners.

 Yours sincerely,

 Khalin Driver

 Ms Khalin Driver, WATESOL President