Not Another Painful Learning Assessment Nightmare (NAPLAN) – Mamamia! (Part 13)

This piece was published by Mamamia recently, and reproduced here (sorry about the font size, wordpress is possessed):

This week my little Prima (aged 8) has NAPLAN. It’s her first brush with standardised education and also mine, as a parent.

This piece is not about the merits of NAPLAN, that debate was held last year on Mamamia and it is an excellent read. Nor is it a discussion about the current education paradigm and whether it’s working well or out-dated. If you’re interested, you should check out Sir Ken Robinson on:

It’s 11 minutes long and more informative than the things I usually search on Youtube (did you know you can watch Knight Rider re-runs on Youtube?).

This post is about standardised education and a reminder to myself that Prima might not make the standards set by others or myself.

You see, I can “do” most forms of standardised testing (except reverse parallel parking tests). All you have to do is tell me what the expected standard is, point me in the right direction, and like a greyhound, I will mindlessly chase after the mechanical rabbit. I can’t help it; it’s some weird Pavlovian reaction.

At a recent parents’ drinks, I was asked by a mother whether I had made Prima do any practice NAPLAN tests. Naturally, I lied like the relaxed mummy that I most certainly am not.

During the Christmas holidays, I printed off a NAPLAN test from the site and I asked Prima to do it. I returned 45 minutes later to find that she had answered a handful of questions and then illustrated the rest of the exam booklet beautifully.

I’ve had years of life coaching (courtesy of a former employer) to control the over-anxious achiever within me and to “learn a new and more constructive dialogue with myself and others”. For example, I almost religiously repeat the following mantra to my children:

-Your marks are not important;

– It’s about doing your best not being The Best;

– It’s about being the best you can be, not being The Best;

– Mummy will be happy if you try your hardest (alternatively insert “best”);

– Learning and having fun is the most important thing Mummy wants.

I wonder if my children sense I am faking it; that despite what I say, their grades really do matter to me. To put this into context, my (fully extended) family and community (you know who you are) are the kind of people who:

– instinctively want to get “full marks” on all tests, including driving tests, eye tests, apgar tests and blood tests;

– ask “What happened to the other 2%?” when you manage a grade average of 98%;

– don’t really believe doing your best is good enough if Your Best is not The Best, despite what that life coach keeps saying.

I have 4 children, which means that our family will collectively sit NAPLAN 64 times ie. 4 (children) x 4 (Years 3,5,7 and 9) x 4 (subject areas); plus 104 school reports plus the HSC = OMG.

So I need to get a grip now. Prima’s NAPLAN is far more a test for me than for her. Prima may answer her NAPLAN questions, she may illustrate them. Who knows? Together we have a long road of education ahead and I want her to love it. I want her to value herself for her strengths and find her own definition of success, instead of being tied forever to the standard one.  She’s not a greyhound and lucky for her, she’s not me.

Do your child’s grades matter to you?  Do you tell them it’s just the effort that counts? Are you faking it? 


About Shankari Chandran

Six years ago we returned home from London to Sydney with our four young children and life has been chaos and comfort chocolate ever since.
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