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Critical Policy Analysis in Education - Assignment 1

Assignment 1
APRIL 16, 2020
Policy borrowing in the education field is certainly one of the evolving phenomena of
the current age and has been put in place at various instances and at different levels. It is as
(Burdett &O’Donnell 2016) put it that policy borrowing as a broad term that does not always
involve a complete systemic transformation. It is also described as a deliberate and conscious
adoption of ideas, policies, or practices from others or on a more general level, it’s the
transnational flow of global policies (Verger, 2014).
With the current advancements in the world and a transition towards globalization, the
flow of policy ideas and methods have found pace and have been widely adopted and
transformed in different parts of the world. (Burdett & O’Donnell 2016) argues that policy
borrowing can be very constructive and effective in some circumstances and not always
represent a pejorative tone referred to in (Oates 2015) policy tourism. Similarly, Verger (2014)
puts up that policy and practice borrowing from elsewhere have contributed to the systems of
education worldwide. Further, making use of the lessons learnt from other contexts can, and
should, be a powerful tool in the field of comparative education and policy-making (Burdett &
O’Donnell, 2016).
However, such borrowing can become problematic due to the complex nature of the
educational systems and a wide variety of external factors influencing the favorable ground for
policy implementation. These factors include various socio-economic, cultural, and various
other situational and international factors as well.
This report aims to look at the national testing program and policies in Australia and
how potentially it can be borrowed to Saudi Arabia effectively.
The national testing programs and policies mainly are covered by the National
Assessment Program which includes different domestic and international assessments
conducted by the Australian authorities to measure performance of students in different areas.
One of these testing programs is NAPLAN which is a national assessment that tests students'
ability in three areas of literacy—reading, writing and language conventions (spelling,
grammar and punctuation)—and in numeracy (Department of Education, 2020).
NAPLAN is part of the NAP, and is used to measure and report student achievements
mainly in years 3, 5, 7, and 9. It focuses on literacy and numeracy achievements of students
and serves as a national benchmark for the performance of young Australians and resourcing
information for the government.
NAPLAN was introduced in 2008 by the Rudd/Gillard Labor government with the key
policy stakeholders being young students, parents, teachers, state and federal governments. It
is managed by an independent Commonwealth authority known as the Australian Curriculum,
Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) whereas the key policy actors of this policy
would include the federal government, International educational bodies and state. Looking at
the national testing policy and specifically NAPLAN from an Australian perspective will give
major insights into the efficiency of the program and some key policy issues.
Even though, NAPLAN continues to produce annual results highlighting important
information about the students, schools and the regions, the policy behind this has found some
criticism as well. (Thompson, 2018) argues that the two aims that policymakers have for
NAPLAN: “to help drive improvements in student outcomes and provide increased
accountability for the community” (ACARA, 2011) can confound each other in practice. The
first aim of driving improvement relies on the belief that more and better data enables better
intervention and monitoring. The second aim of NAPLAN, to provide increased accountability,
is driven by the logic that holding individuals and organisations to account motivates them to
do better. A structural problem with NAPLAN is that using it for accountability purposes while
also proposing to use it for diagnostic and educative purposes can work against each other
There is also a hint towards NAPLAN being a high-stake test as (Lobascher, 2011),
(Lingard 2010) and (The Experience of Education: A Qualitative Study—Whitlam Institute,
n.d.) mention it as a high stake test given the publication of National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test-results on the MySchool website and subsequent
media identification and a survey testing. Similarly, (Polesel et al., 2014) reports from his
national study involving 8000 educators which indicates that the testing regime is leading to a
reduction in time spent on other curriculum areas and adjustment of pedagogical practice and
curriculum content to mirror the tests. Furthermore, another insight on the instruments used for
NAPLAN shares that it does not facilitate differently abled students. (Cumming & Dickson,
2013) state that equitable inclusion of students with disability in current Australian educational
accountability testing is not occurring from a social perspective and is not in principle
compliant with law. Another criticism comes in a way that the introduction of such a test has
shifted the teachers’ focus from curriculum. (Perkins, 2010) argues that teachers have been told
to teach explicitly for the national tests that are the cornerstone of the Federal Government's
controversial My School website. Additionally, (Santiago et al., 2011) outline in the OECD
Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Australia, that NAPLAN has certain
limitations in its alignment with student learning objectives.
These are some of the issues highlighted in the policy from an Australian perspective.
The next section now focuses on the philosophical understanding and alignment of education
and the text and discourse of this policy.
The philosophical understanding of education dates back from the introduction of
idealism by Plato to the recent postmodernism understanding. The policy work behind
NAPLAN was a part of making the educational policy of the country as part of national
economic policy. This came in response to the increasing globalization and prevalence of
concepts like knowledge-based economies. As we look at the policy, it is clear that it was built
on a top down approach with being rational, procedural and regulatory in approach.
The distributive description tends to focus on all the students without classifying them
through means testing. The policy discourse is trying to establish literacy and numeracy as the
cornerstone for education and further believes to have a standardized test in order to measure
the performance of students in these domains. It also mentions the test results as a benchmark
for future instructions and guidance for students. At the same time, it is also focusing on how
the performance of students in this test can be set as a tool to compare performances of students,
teachers at a national level. Additionally, as (Thompson & Lasic, 2011) share in this mode,
NAPLAN is understood as a set of practices, statements and truths (discourses) that privilege
certain interpretations, values and expectations above others. Knowledge is not external to the
institution – a rational, absolute, objective knowledge, but is created within the discourses of
the institutions and its practices
Looking more into the text and discourse of the policy, it is found that it relates to
realism, pragmatism and post modernism thoughts. The policy’s alignment with the Melbourne
Declaration and use of statements like, “Australian schooling provides equity and excellence”,
“Item writers work to ensure equity of access for students of all genders and from different
cultures and language backgrounds” and “Allow equity of access for students with disabilities”
highlights its relation with realism. (Thompson & Lasic, 2011) state that NAPLAN as text is
given over to simplified, concrete understanding of complex ideas such as equity and
accountability: NAPLAN is equitable because everyone has to do it so it is a fair measure of
teaching and learning in schools
Similarly, a focus on skill-building and quality like the statements, “gives teachers
information about their students’ skills and understandings”, “allow students to show the
breadth and depth of their understanding and skills’’, “Students become numerate as they
develop the knowledge and skills to use mathematics confidently across all learning areas at
school and in their lives more broadly” show the relevance with postmodern thoughts to some
Furthermore, mentions like, “The NAPLAN writing test aligns with the Australian
Curriculum: English through a focus on three central types of texts that are essential for
students to master if they are to be successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and
active and informed citizen” also show slight direction towards romanticism and pragmaticism.
Lastly, there is also a hint towards neoliberal thinking as (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010) share
that the Rudd/Gillard Labor government and its predecessor the Howard Liberal government
have assumed greater control over education and education funding in an attempt to apply
neoliberal thinking that sees education as a key factor in global and national economic
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inclusion approaches to discrimination for students with disability: A national case
study from Australia. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 20(2),
221–239. https://doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2012.730499
Department of Education, S. and E. (2020, April 3). National Assessment Program—Literacy
and Numeracy | Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Australian
Government. https://www.education.gov.au/national-assessment-program-literacyand-numeracy
Lingard, 2010, Policy borrowing, policy learning: testing times in Australian schooling.
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curriculum and pedagogy: A teacher perspective from Australia [Text]. Routledge,
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Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2010). Globalizing Education Policy. Abingdon: Routledge.
Santiago, P., Donaldson, G., Herman, J., & Shewbridge, C. (2011). OECD Reviews of
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in the public domain. Thompson, G. Retrieved from:
https://Researchrepository.Murdoch.Edu.Au/View/Author/Thompson, Greg.Html
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