National testing for mums and dads
15th April 2011

In the following and on the ABC's The Drum I argue that in the same way we have NAPLAN for schools, we also should hold parents accountable by making them undertake national parenting tests.

On the back of schools being forced to implement Australia’s National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests (NAPLAN) at years three, five, seven and nine beginning in 2008, Australia’s education ministers have called for a similar testing and accountability regime to monitor and evaluate Australian parents.

The new tests, called National Assessment Program Mums and Dads (NAPMAD), will be taken annually by all parents and will improve parent productivity by benchmarking Australian homes against world best practice.

International research by the respected economic company McKinsey & Co argues that parenting is the strongest determinant influencing children’s educational success or failure and effective homes have been proven to lead to better behaved, more motivated and easier to teach students.

Characteristics of effective parents include qualifications and annual earnings, number of books in the home, having a loving and supportive relationship with their children and a willingness to create a disciplined and creative home environment.

At the moment, Australian parenting ranks below many other OECD countries as measured by a number of indicators including children’s wellness, educational achievement and future workforce participation and lifetime earnings. “Gone are the day when parents could simply disappear into their homes, do whatever they want with their children and not be held accountable”, stated a spokesperson for PARENTWatch, the body established by the federal government to oversee NAPMAD.

The spokesperson, Dr Measuer Dis, went on to say, “accountability and transparency is essential as billions of dollars are invested in raising children.  The public, along with teachers and schools, have every right to identify and reward parents who are successful as well as punishing those who under-perform”.

A spokesman for the federal government’s Ministry of Plenty justified NAPMAD with the argument that effective parenting was in the national interest and it was time to shine the torch on Australian homes.  “If parents are doing the right thing, they will have nothing to hide”, the spokesperson said.“After identifying the better performing parents, we can use their expertise to help those parents who are currently under-performing.  Ranking parents and having league tables will create a competitive environment and provide a strong incentive to raise standards and improve performance”, the spokesman went on to say.

NAPMAD, to be taken annually, will consist of questionnaires, surveys and tests to find out if parents are doing what they should and are taking their responsibilities seriously.  Inspectors will also visit homes on a random basis to carry out spot evaluations to ensure that parents are not trying to ‘cheat’ the system.

Inspectors will be authorised to enter homes and children’s rooms to see first hand whether parents are implementing the government’s guidelines titled ‘Parenting Instructions Simple and Safe’ (PISS).

The guidelines cover topics like computer use and where computers are placed in the home, children’s internet and mobile phone use, eating arrangements (for example, whether families have dinner at the table with the TV switched on or off) and whether parents read to their children on a regular basis.

Research proves that the children of ambitious and hard working parents achieve the best NAPLAN results and have a better chance of completing Year 12 and gaining tertiary entry.  Given the strong relationship between annual earnings, qualifications and occupation and children’s educational performance, parents will be asked to complete questionaries revealing such details. Such information will be made public on the NAPMAD website and used, on the grounds of improving equity in education for disadvantaged children with under-performing parents, to ensure that students from better homes are not rewarded simply because of home background.

In addition to at-risk children and poorly performing homes being targeted with additional funding and programs, quotas will be introduced for tertiary entry to ensure that children from successful homes do not get an unfair advantage. The equity initiative builds on similar positive discrimination programs introduced by the Julia Gillard led ALP Government in 2010/2011.

Dr Leveller, from the Australian Council for Equity Research (ACER), applauds the move to promote equality of outcomes on the basis that children have no control over where they are born or who they have for parents.

In a recent interview, Dr Leveller argued, “Why should children whose parents have done all they can to provide a safe, loving and educationally rich home environment be rewarded?”

It should be recognised that not all agree with the move to monitor, evaluate and rank parents’ performance. 

Test expert from The University of Melbourne, Dr Margaret Yu argues that NAPLAN failed to raise standards or improve results and it is wrong to place parents under the same pressure experienced by schools and teachers.

“Naming and shaming schools has not worked as it is counter-productive and destructive of good education”, she said.  “Also, there is much in good parenting, like teaching, that cannot be measured and the reality is that not all children have the same abilities, motivation or desire to succeed.  No amount government wishful thinking and social engineering can alter the fact that there will always be some families that fail and some that succeed”.



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National testing for mums and dads
15th April 2011
In the following and on the ABC's The Drum I argue that in the same way we have NAPLAN for schools, we also should hold parents accountable by making them undertake national parenting tests.On the b...

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