Australia’s future depends upon each citizen having the knowledge, understanding, skills and values necessary to provide the basis for a productive and rewarding life for citizens in an educated, just and open society. High quality schooling is central to achieving this vision.
The National Assessment Program (NAP) is the measure through which governments, education authorities, schools and the community can determine whether or not young Australians are meeting important educational outcomes.
In a world where people are increasingly mobile, the majority of today’s students can be expected to live and work in a range of places in Australia and overseas. It is important that there be consistent and well understood measures of student achievement around the country, and that the outcomes of these assessments be used to inform future policy development, resource allocation, curriculum planning and, where necessary, intervention programs. The NAP provides useful nationally comparable evidence about student achievement. By participating in these assessments, schools benefit not only their own students, but also the students in every state and territory.
Benefits of the NAP
The NAP helps drive improvements in student outcomes and provides increased accountability for the community.
For schools – all Australian schools benefit from NAPLAN national testing. Schools can gain detailed information about how they are performing, and can identify strengths and weaknesses that may need further attention. Aggregated results are available through comprehensive reports at the national and school level, and student-level results are available for parents and schools. For more information on how results are reported, see Test results.
For systems – the NAP provides education ministers with information about the success of their policies and resourcing in priority curriculum areas. The NAP also provides ministers with the ability to monitor the success of policies aimed at improving the achievement of different student groups, such as Indigenous students.
Without the nationally comparable data about student performance that the NAP provides, states and territories have only limited information about the achievement of their students in relation to their peers. NAP data provide an additional suite of information, thus enhancing the capacity for evidence-based decision making about policy, resourcing and systemic practices.
The NAP performs an accountability function. Australians can expect education resources to be allocated in ways that ensure that all students achieve worthwhile learning during their time at school. The reported outcomes of the NAP enable the Australian public to develop a general national perspective on student achievement and, more specifically, an understanding of how their schools are performing.
In 1999, ministers of education released the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the 21st Century (Adelaide Declaration). In this declaration, ministers agreed to report on progress towards the achievement of the national goals comparable by state and territory, using national key performance measures as the basis for reporting. In order to measure student achievement in relation to the national goals, ministers agreed to a program, called the National Assessment Program (NAP), to collect, analyse and report nationally comparable data on student achievement in literacy, numeracy, science, ICT, and civics and citizenship.
Following the Adelaide Declaration, NAP sample assessments began in 2003 with science literacy.
The first NAPLAN tests took place in 2008, following the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Melbourne Declaration) that replaced the Adelaide Declaration.
The 2008 NAPLAN tests were conducted by the then Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA, which became the Education Council, now the Education Ministers Meeting [EMM]). This was the first time all students in Australia in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were assessed in literacy and numeracy using the same year level tests. The national tests, which replaced a raft of tests administered by Australian states and territories, improved the comparability of students’ results across states and territories.
The Melbourne Declaration, in contrast to the earlier declaration on schooling, had a broader frame and set out educational goals for young Australians as:
- Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence
- Goal 2: All young Australians become:
- successful learners
- confident and creative individuals
- active and informed citizens.
Ministers agreed 8 actions to achieve these goals, with one of them being to ‘promote world-class curriculum and assessment’.
The Melbourne Declaration stated that:
assessment of student progress will be rigorous and comprehensive. It needs to reflect the curriculum, and draw on a combination of the professional judgement of teachers and testing, including national testing.
The Melbourne Declaration also identified that the learning areas of English and Mathematics were fundamental in all years of schooling, placing emphasis on the literacy and numeracy skills assessed by NAPLAN tests.
The Melbourne Declaration was superseded by the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Declaration in 2019. It includes 11 commitments to action in support of its goals, including a commitment to ensure student progress and achievement is measured in meaningful ways through the development and enhancement of national and school-level assessment.
It also notes that literacy and numeracy skills are the foundation of learning, and will be essential to achieving one of the goals of the Declaration, that 'All young Australians become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community'.
Federal, state and territory education ministers agreed in 2012 that all schools would gradually transition from paper-based NAPLAN tests to computer-based assessments.
The transition to online was completed in 2022.
NAPLAN online tests provide a better assessment, more precise results and are more engaging for students. The assessments can run through a real-time internet connection or onscreen without an internet connection. Watch: Understanding NAPLAN online (2 min 11s).
Significant planning, development, research and trialling were carried out to support the move online. In its first year of transition in 2018, just over 15% of schools participated in online NAPLAN assessments. In 2019, the number rose to over 50% with all schools online in 2022. Feedback about the online test has been positive, with students saying they find the format engaging.
State/territory education authorities lead and manage implementation of NAPLAN in their state/territory.
Key features of NAPLAN online tests
NAPLAN online tests include a range of question formats and interactive features. Students answer questions by clicking, typing and dragging; some questions include audio or interactive tools; all questions can be reviewed and answered, or flagged and returned to later.
NAPLAN online tests are tailored or adaptive. Students at each year level start with a similar set of questions. Depending on each student’s answers, the next set of questions may be easier or more difficult, giving students greater opportunity to demonstrate what they know. Learn more about Tailored tests.
For further information, go to Understanding online assessment.