Nationwide NAPLAN testing is now set to experience a change within the education system. The Australian Government is seeking to implement changes to the NAPLAN testing structure, by transitioning to online testing.

States and territories across Australia have had a varying response to the online testing transition, with unions protesting the change.

In the Northern Territory, the Education Department plans for NAPLAN testing to move online by 2019. The NT government intends to hold trials throughout 2018 to ensure they are confident in making the transition.

Yet the Education Union has found that nearly half of NT schools have either little or no bandwidth capacity – proving it difficult to cater for online NAPLAN testing. The proposed testing plan also disadvantages certain students and schools. Schools in rural areas and regional areas may have greater difficulty gaining internet access when trying to complete the tests.

In NSW, students are currently sitting NAPLAN Online School Readiness Tests which commenced on 14 August and will continue until 22 September. The readiness tests are an initiative by the NSW Education Department, and aim to familiarise students with the online testing process prior to the official NAPLAN test. School principals are expected to select a week for the readiness tests, which have been criticised as disrupting the school teaching period.

The online trials were completed by 500 NSW schools in one week, and more than 3,500 schools are expected to participate across the country. Despite criticism, the NSW Education Department’s polling has found that of the 12,500 responses to the online readiness test, 78 percent of the feedback was positive towards the testing. 15 percent of surveyed students said they did not like the computer testing format.

Unions in Victoria have similar disdain towards the online NAPLAN testing, fearing that it will promote inequality in schools that may not have enough resources to supply all students with computers. Unlike NSW who are embracing the online NAPLAN testing initiative, Victorian Education Minister James Merlino has deferred Victoria’s enrolment to commence no earlier than 2018.

The online testing is said to have a number of benefits. Students will no longer need to be concerned as to whether their handwriting is legible. The new initiative is also tailored to individually suit students needs. A student’s pace when answering solutions influences the difficulty of forthcoming questions. Yet the new testing system also has its challenges. For students unable to touch-type, online NAPLAN testing could take longer in writing out answers.

The Education Union is calling for States and Territories to boycott the NAPLAN testing, due to the perceived inequity it brings to the education system.