Education Policy in Australia and China: Assessment and Evaluation Frameworks

Published: 2021/12/28
Number of words: 5938

A policy outlines strategies, protocols, and frameworks designed to impact changes in a given sector at any administrative level. Because of this role, policies guide the progressive growth of the national agendas in line with global trends. Since proposals are meant to be implemented to achieve rational objectives, policies are steered by a governing organ, which ascertains that it is fully executed and adjusted to fit the problem. A specific sector’s stakeholders design policies based on a robust and comprehensive analysis of their issues. The same case applies to the education sector. According to Gurur (2015), education is the backbone of any nation’s or state’s development (Gorur, 2015). It steers the growth and development of citizens because it improves their social communication and interaction, fosters their emotional development and appreciation, and enhances their cognitive ability. Hence, education moulds citizens by offering them quality and equality training. To achieve this milestone, the system of education must be considered, as it informs any education policy. Education governing bodies in a given country enhance policymaking. It also ensures that citizens are offered right education by providing equal opportunities to all the citizens. Other roles entail training teachers adequately, developing infrastructures in school environment, and upgrading standards of learning institutions (Agasisti & Longobardi, 2017). From these roles, education policies aim to improve schools, train education providers, create a conducive learning environment for the students based on equity and fairness, and cooperate with government bodies in the formulating and implementing strategies, a role they perform by administering, governing, and funding. An educated person is a crucial government’s asset, as this aspect increases one’s cognitive ability, hence fosters competitiveness of the nation in the global scope by providing enlightened human resources.

Ministry of education is the main educational system governing body in Australia. The country has two territories and six states that are typically consulted regarding education policies. Every state design, implement and formulate rational decisions concerning education policies. Every stakeholder in Australia is typically consulted on education policies, and they entail Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood, and the Council of Australian Governments. The Standing Council on Tertiary Education is also consulted regarding education matters. The education progress within Australia and at the international level is highly prioritized. Therefore, the country provides a comprehensive and robust consultative approach to education policy design and ensures that it is adopted in schools (Wu & Hornsby, 2014). Education oriented bodies within the six states and two territories receive national representation in the formulation of education policies. These bodies comprise The Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, The Australian Children’s Education Quality and Care Authority, and The Australian Qualifications Framework Council (Reid, 2019). Also, Assessment, and Reporting Authority and The Australian Curriculum are crucial bodies. These education stakeholders in Australia provide specialized inputs to realize a rational policy that leads to success and progress in the education sector.

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In comparison, China is large in size and population and comprises 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four dependent municipalities, and two special administrative regions. The jurisdictions are defined by county, provincial, and township levels, all under central government management. The provincial-level serves as the highest administrative level and encompasses the municipalities, provinces, autonomous regions, and special administrative regions. Each of the levels has its local governments with representation at the national level. Education matters and policy designs are state-run and managed and implemented within the various jurisdictions. The nation, through the ministry of education, governs and administers policies. Private organizations and schools provide insignificant contributions to educational matters in China. To offer equal opportunities, the state owns and administers all the educational institutions. Provincial authorities, being the second in administration after the national government, provide, manage, and administer higher education establishments. County-level authorities are responsible for the management, government, and provision of school education. Through the ministry of education, the national government offers oversight in education through direct provision of funds in budget allocations, information services, instituted laws, guiding policy formulations, and the general administrative responsibilities. The ministry forms the state council on education and offers national guidelines concerning education and policies. The other administrative levels are responsible for the direct management of education; therefore, they are the key stakeholders in education policing within their jurisdictions. The provincial administrations and governments have the autonomy to exercise, formulate, and implement policies in line with instituted laws and regulations. Commissions of education at the provincial administration level are foreseen education matters at the level.

Through their local administrations, the provincial levels are subdivided into county and township levels to reach out to the interior needs and govern directly within their jurisdictions. County and township administrative levels have bureaus of education that control and take charge of education policies and implementation. Designing and implementing education policies within the provincial levels occurs at the provincial level, while the national government function as an oversight body and offers finance. The local commissions and bureaus formulate, design, and implement education policies in line with the state council. The local authorities ensure the policies are practical in their jurisdiction by following their local needs with an overall approach and outcome to the national level need. The state council, therefore, provides an overall guideline framework for achieving a result through a policy. The specific framework is designed by the local authorities who directly access their environment and education needs. The policies’ practicality concerns the local authorities, noting that the state council provides policy guidelines and assumes oversight roles. Comparing the authorities responsible for education policies in Australia and China is worthy, as both show similarity in the respective bodies’ hierarchy and functions at the national and local authorities.

China highly regards education highly because they believe that it is a necessity for national development and a requirement for globalization in the modern era. Education policies in China are designed to provide quality, equity, and efficient training at all schooling system levels. The policies are designed to allow students to improve class activities and monitor and improve their ability to solve real-world problems creatively and innovatively. Education policies in China enable teachers to determine their skills to formulate the best training strategies to allow their dissemination of education to the students. Pieces of training would ensure improved and efficient teaching and learning strategies. The policies also aid in defining education infrastructure so as to enable improvement of schools in the country by administering the local administrative policies. Therefore, China’s education policies aim to improve teaching abilities, enhance learning capabilities, and foster school facilities upgrade to enable global recognition and modernization.

Australian education policies, just like those of China, analyses and improves the key aspects of education, such as those related to students, institutions, and governance in the school system. As outlined by the ministry of education in Australia, the policies’ overall outcome improves education quality. It also enables equity in the schools by ensuring that there is inclusivity in education to every individual in Australia. The policies are formulated to match, attract, and compete with international standards. Several international education assessment bodies have indicated and ranked Australia among the best performers in policy formulation because the nation’s main aim is to improve its education. The program for international students’ assessment (PISA) index and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have indicated significant improvement in education levels in Australia, especially in line with globalization strategies and human resource development. Education programs and frameworks in Australia have significantly enhanced student performance, as Australia has more high-performing students surpassing the OECD benchmark. PISA statistics in 2009 outlined China students from Shanghai municipality as the best performers globally in Science, mathematics, and literacy for students aged 15 years (Stacey, 2010). This performance was attributed to the municipal education policies regarding education in line with the state council’s proposed and overall policy. China has also shown an increase in emphasis on education and has developed policies to help in realizing success in education. The policies are well designed and formulated, such that rational, significant outcomes are realized. Muthanna and Sang (2015) denotes that in 2018, approximately 96% of students over the age of 15 were literate and, therefore, justified the country’s intense, comprehensive education policies. Specific concern and the push for education policy reform resulted from criticizing the Chinese education system. Critics believed that there was an increased overreliance on curriculum memorization, inequality, and disproportionate education quality in rural and urban schools (Chen & Laksana, 2016). These concerns enabled the formulation of various policies revolving around schools’ management, improving teacher practices and skills, and assessing and evaluating student performances at their different schooling levels. In both countries, international education bodies had favourable statistics based on their analysis, ranking the two nations to be among high performers in education. Australia and China have the best-performing students aged below 15 years in various courses such as Science, mathematics, and literacy master (Black & Yasukawa, 2010). Therefore, it is predictably correct that education policies within the countries significantly impact education, especially among young students.

An effective education system that allows effective policy enforcement requires good governance and funding. Institutions of learning need adequate financing to foster quality education equally and effectively. Comprehensive learning and teaching pedagogies are provided where teachers are well trained and skilled in administering education to students. Generally, teachers’ critical education aspects and their skills and institutions rely majorly on governance and significant funding. In Australia, institutions are decentralized such that every state and territory independently governs its school system, and they also determine how funds allocation to every school. This decentralization has proved effective, as the local administrations appear to have a deep insight into their schools’ needs. Because of that insight, authorities can design pragmatic governance and funding frameworks to boost education in their jurisdiction. China exhibits the same governance system. This similarity exists because China’s education system and policy formulation are decentralized. State councils provide a general framework to guide education affairs in the country. The commissions of education at the provincial level and the bureaus of education at the county and township levels of administration are concerned with the direct administration of education policies. The local levels determine specific policies in line with their local practical education needs and foresee their implementation. Their leading role is to ensure that local policies align with the state council guidelines, designed to apply at the local levels effectively. Decentralization in China education system has led to a disparity in governance and funding. Because of these problems, the school systems suffer a lack of equal and quality education provision in some schools (Tan & Connie, 2018). Rural and urban institutions show unequal progress in education, as rural institutions perform dismally. The local administrations within rural areas are responsible for such disparities, as they are directly involved with the formulation and implementation of frameworks that, according to the state council, should ensure equity, quality, and effective education provision in China.

Overview of NAPLAN in Australia and the Alternative Assessment in Shanghai, China

National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is a national assessment and evaluation education policy in Australia. This framework was designed to effectively assess and evaluate students’ education progress at various schooling levels. It aims to improve students’ education outcomes and preparedness in all years of schooling in Australia (Zajda, 2015). The policy offers evaluation methods for learners at various study levels, such as 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th, regarding their education years. It also provides assessment and evaluation tools in students’ abilities in literacy and numeracy. The policy has criteria for testing and grading students’ literacy levels in different disciplines, especially by considering their aptitude on grammar, writing, and reading, among others. The Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood and the Council of Australian Governments function to oversight education process by imposing the instituted policies. Another body, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) oversees NAPLAN by ensuring that it is adopted entirely nationwide. The policy was initiated in 2008, and it is being implemented up to date. This policy is applied once yearly in order to track the learners’ progress, especially by considering those in 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th educational years (Ford, 2013). Students undertake the assessment tests after evaluating their capability, especially after consulting their parents based on their abilities. The policy intended to track students’ abilities along their education years and help shape their education outcome and future careers. The framework has proved effective among young students as significant progress has been evaluated and recognized by international education bodies. The policy is fully embraced and implemented across all the states and territories in Australia. Critics commonly question the policy’s intention and describe it as being result-oriented instead of allowing students to establish their strong education points. Schools are also criticized for focusing too much on the evaluation and assessment process, limiting students’ abilities to the defined policy scope.

In China, students’ abilities and learning outcomes are assessed using the conventional assessment framework. The state council and commissions for education and education bureaus have, over two decades, applied the strategy to gauge learning outcomes in the country. The assessment strategy offers a writing platform where paper and pencil help students recall their class objectives and activities. The assessment’s performance is used to classify schools based on performance, grade students, and perform teachers appraisals based on the assessment outcomes. The conventional assessment has been applied for several decades (Tan, 2012). Critics question and argue that the assessment strategy focuses on extracting procedural knowledge from students and focuses on students’ learning from the classroom. In this view, the framework creates a sense of mastering facts and memorizing existing knowledge. However, it is lately viewed as being out of touch with the generational needs. Today’s education and policing should focus on conceptual knowledge that enforces creative and critical thinking, thereby analysing students’ ability to solve real-world problems and offer a real-time solution so as to concur with current global modernization needs. Modern education should be aimed at developing students’ character by measuring their knowledge application level, how they do topical research, and methods they use in solving problems. The conventional assessment presents gaps in the modern era education requirements. As a national policy, the framework is provided and implemented within the country, but local-level education stakeholders design effective strategies worthy of use. Shanghai Municipality designed an assessment strategy to aid in gauging students’ performance and education outcomes as per the 21st-century education needs (Lam, 2015). The concurrent assessment strategy in Shanghai is known as an alternative assessment – a method developed to complement conventional assessment and aid in bridging the gaps in the national strategy.

The assessment and evaluation strategies in the two countries are occasioned by globalization. Globalization has improved communication and interaction between people and communities of the world. Every nation’s governments strive to equip their citizens with the skills and competencies to participate in globalization. Education is the key to globalization. Improving and enforcing writing, reading, pronunciation, and scientific ideas to citizens and especially students is vital for globalization. Designing strategies, such as the NAPLAN and the Alternative assessment, allows students’ creative and critical analysis skills development, nurture their abilities, mould their character, and enhance their knowledge application and real-world problem-solving (Thompson & Cook, 2014). The upsurge in social media networks and globalization has occasioned the need for quality, equity, equality, and the need for an adequate education. As a requirement in the 21st-century era of globalization, education and policies in the sector are aimed at conceptual, procedural knowledge-based education that provides room for innovation and creativity and real-time problem-solving (Goss, Sonnemann, Chisholm, & Nelson, 2016). The assessments provide insight into the education levels in the countries and the education environments. This framework is useful because it helps in analysing teachers based on their teaching methods and learning pedagogies. It also helps in implementing the necessary measures to enhance teachers’ productivity. Equity and quality of education are measured by assessing individual school’s performances as merited from the evaluation. Significant institution changes are thereby formulated, and aid improves the institutional environment and offers equity in the provision of education in all education sectors. Students’ progress and ability are effectively assessed and evaluated, allowing the institution of effective frameworks that are in line with globalization demands.

Background Study of NAPLAN, Alternative Assessment and Current Status

The conventional assessment is the national adopted evaluation strategy in China. The framework involves assessing students’ education abilities and outcomes through written tests and majorly comprised of multiple-choice questions. The assessment and evaluation involve administering two-terminal exams at the junior secondary level and the senior secondary level. The junior-level assessment (zhongkao) and the senior level assessment (gaokao) evaluate education outcomes and aligning them with global demands. The key areas that zhongkao tests students’ abilities include; Chinese language, mathematics, English language, physics, chemistry, and physical fitness. The tests of these disciplines are typically written, and they are summative (Rui, 2014). The students are graded based on their performance and reflect their ability at the junior level. The results are then evaluated and used to establish and design improved education policies. The gaokao tests senior students’ abilities by examining their mastering capacity on Chinese language, mathematics, and the English language based on an individual’s specialization. The evaluation of the senior students assists in measuring their abilities and the education outcome in the country. It also helps in determining the required teaching pedagogies and institutional infrastructure. The conventional assessment has been used majorly to classify students. This process involves placing them for further studies, analysing teaching strategies, and performing appraisals based on the evaluated performance. The tactic is useful in measuring school standards in the nation and formulating necessary measures to improve performance and standards. The conventional assessment has provided fundamental knowledge analysis of the students. Education reforms in china emerged as a result of globalization. Shanghai municipality designed an alternative assessment framework that complemented the conventional framework.

The alternative framework supports the state council’s guidelines, but it is enhanced to extract the students’ best performance and education outcomes in Shanghai. The alternative assessment focuses on students’ higher-order thinking analysis. The conventional assessment focuses on basic skills analysis and, therefore, an alternative assessment was designed and implemented to assess students’ critical and creative thinking, problem-solving through real-time knowledge application (Hairon & Tan, 2017). As an upgrade and complement to conventional assessment, alternative assessment involves the formulation of open-ended exams where students’ analytical skills are measured. The assessment provides a holistic analysis of students’ progress and abilities. The municipality designed a framework to provide quality-oriented education instead of the initial evaluation focused on exam-oriented education (Hardy, 2014). The conventional assessment is a rigorous and fair assessment strategy – fairness helps provide a common termly exam across all schools in China. Students are thereby treated equally, and fairness is ensured. The framework’s rigorousness stems from its capability to test students’ abilities at the junior and senior school level and then match their performance to their learning outcomes. The Shanghai education reform was aimed at complementing conventional assessment in areas that are partially or wholly ignored. Quality education is based on the ability to frame strategies that evaluate class and curriculum requirements and the applicability of knowledge into the world. The alternative assessment focuses on quality-based, holistic education encompassing all areas of students, teachers, and school development. The alternative assessment provides examinable questions that require creativity and innovative higher-order thinking to solve. These examinations measure the students’ knowledge practicability and, therefore, enhance competence in interaction, communication, interpretation, and solution design and approved by the National Education Examinations Authority. As proposed in the alternative assessment, specific changes in the gaokao have included evaluation of senior secondary level students in three other subjects instead of a single option, subject to the conventional assessment (Muthanna & Sang, 2015). The traditional assessment was dubbed 3’X, while the alternative assessment provides a 3’3, where the 3 are additional examinable subject areas. The number of open-ended questions is increased, while multiple questions are reduced in the alternative assessment, unlike conventional assessment that was wholly focused on multiple-choice questions. The alternative assessment provides a different timeline for examining the compulsory subjects, majorly the languages and the three optional subjects. The difference in time allows students to plan, prepare adequately for the tests, and instil the need for quality-oriented exams instead of exam-oriented education. Shanghai residents and education stakeholders have praised the alternative assessment as efficient and quality-focused because it provides students with a holistic education.

The Shanghai education reform has been applied for over two decades, and it has improved the level, quality, and efficiency of education in Shanghai and China as a whole. Other provinces and education stakeholders are shifting towards the alternative assessment even though social, cultural, and economic practices hinder its full rollout (Ding & Jones, 2018). Chinese culture and customs instil the need to pass knowledge to students at a young age and develop their abilities in their learning abilities. Therefore, holistic education seems not fully embraced even though effective for the 21st-century requirements. Teachers’ and students’ appraisal is done through alternative assessments. This process covers a broad array of learners’ aptitudes, such as moral and ideological traits, academic prowess, talents, mental health, ability to embrace and foster Chinese culture, and physical wellbeing. Alternative assessments also test on students’ capability to be creative and innovative, and capacity to apply these skills in designing solutions to solve real-life practical problems. Overall, alternative assessment has served a complementary role by extending conventional assessment purposes and improving and incorporating Chinese education policies to quality-based standards as a holistic education platform. The decades roll out of alternative assessment in Shanghai has led to international recognition. The 2018 statistics literacy value, indicating approximately 96% of students over the age of 15 in China as literate, justified the country’s robust, comprehensive, effective education policies.

In Australia, NAPLAN was rolled out in 2008. The basis for the policy’s formulation was to develop a framework to aid in tracking students’ education ability progressively. NAPLAN was introduced to improve the 1999 national testing framework designed by the ministry of education (Lowe & Yunkaporta, 2013). The framework aimed to provide equal, quality, and inclusive education to Australian citizens and equipped them with the necessary skills for globalization. The 21st century has necessitated the need for quality education to improve competency, communication, and interaction among people worldwide. Globalization has revolutionized the world, making it appear like a global village where knowledge and communication skills are necessary for interaction. NAPLAN was designed to ensure that citizens are prepared for modernization and improve the nation’s ability to provide competent human resources to the world. The policy involved the administration of assessment tests in May of every year since it was established (Shomos, 2010). The tests comprised of 40 questions that require written answers. Their performance in the tests measures students’ abilities and competencies, thereby gauging the education outcomes. Each territory and state is responsible for discharging the assessment, and they also evaluate and monitor learners’ progress at every level. Teachers and their teaching pedagogies are monitored and analysed based on the performance of their students. Schools’ standards and development are also based on their performances extracted from their students’ test results (Dabbagh et al., 2015). The assessment results are then used in designing and planning improvement and development strategies for the students’ capabilities by analysing their strengths and weaknesses. Early age students in the third and fifth schooling years registered significant improvement since the inception of NAPLAN. However, older students in their final schooling years have indicated reduced or lack of improvement in their literacy and numeracy tests. Even though the decentralized education system provides disparity, equity in education is advocated by providing standard NAPLAN tests across the country. Specific states focus fully on NAPLAN, while others accord full consideration to curriculum requirements (Thompson, 2013). Overall. NAPLAN has enabled tracking students’ progress and identifying their strengths and weaknesses in the education system. Formulating ways to improve weaknesses and fulfil learner’s potential is possible following the evaluation policy. NAPLAN has attracted international bodies’ recognition as Australia has more high-performing students than the OECD statistics for early childhood learning (Grossi, Papenfuß, & Tremblay, 2015). Currently, online NAPLAN administration is underlying with this year’s pilot postponement due to the coronavirus 2019. The NAPLAN administrators are focusing on the online test administration to improve the timespan between assessment and results in order to improve timely reactions.

Contrast and Critical Analysis of the Policies Implementation

The competition derived from NAPLAN in terms of meriting students, teachers, and schools based on students’ performance is unhealthy for education. The system develops emphasis on exam-oriented education instead of reinstating quality-oriented education in the globalization era (Shomos & Forbes, 2014). The time factor is a critical challenge in the administration of NAPLAN. The tests roll to the next year due to the slow evaluation process, thereby not allowing enough time to implement progressive improvements from the tests. Allocation of resources and funding to schools based on NAPLAN results creates an unfair ground, as the policy’s emphasis varies from state and territory. Only states and territories focusing on NAPLAN can gain from this framework.

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Alternative assessment in Shanghai, China, seems effective in meeting globalization education needs. Even so, the system rarely considers the social, cultural heritage of the Chinese citizens, as it wholly emphasizes modernization (Tan, 2019). The introduction of three optional subjects in the assessment limits and diverts students’ specialization, and thereby, significantly reduces the performance regarding students’ abilities and strengths in a given speciality. Overall, the two policies have been established as effective education strategies considering their quality education provision and subsequent international recognition.

Discussion

NAPLAN and Alternative Assessment are vital education policies in the 21st century. The strategy has been vastly adopted in Australia. While this framework started in Shanghai municipality, it is now being espoused in various education administrative levels in China. The policies have led to significant improvement in illiteracy levels among Chinese citizens. The framework’s ability to provide holistic education nurtures competency, character development, creativity, and innovation among the students (Smith, Parr, & Muhidin, 2019). It provides a significant analysis of school standards and teaching strategies in the institutions. The only addition to the framework encompasses cultural heritage in the education system since globalization is about diversity. NAPLAN focuses on nurturing students’ abilities, and this aspect explains why progress has been noted among the early year students (Young, 2014). Older students focus on creativity and innovation, which the framework does not incorporate, and this issue resulted in little progress among the senior students. Therefore, it is crucial for education stakeholders to design an improved policy based on NAPLAN in order to embrace all the students’ analyses and introduce some sense of innovation and creativity in the tests just as is in the Alternative assessment in China. The need to centralize education to focus on a common goal is vital in ensuring equity and education inclusivity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, every sector, especially education, requires the design, implementation, and monitoring of policies that improve the sector not only at the national level but at the international level. Quality, inclusivity, and equity in education provision are key to citizens’ development, and it helps them enhance their competency; hence it is effective in the globalization process. Education provides literacy and numeracy skills. It also enables the two nations to develop efficient and competent human resource. A defined education system in a country regarding the specified authorities responsible for education aids formulate efficient policies that oversee development and education progress. NAPLAN and Alternative assessment are crucial education strategies, as their application in Australia and China has improved education levels in both nations to international recognition level. Effective education strategies are such that they provide holistic education characterized by quality and inclusivity, thereby moulding students’ characters and their creativity and innovation. It also improves learners’ communication and interaction abilities and instils confidence in their presentations and representations. Effective governance and allocation of adequate funds to the schooling system is vital in realizing and formulating effective education policies. Improved education provides a competent human resource in all aspects, noting it is vital in the 21st century and globalization. Comparatively, education systems in both Australia and China are similar in that these nations are focused on formulating policies that improve citizens’ education level while meeting globalization’s demands. The two countries exhibit almost similar education system structures given that the countries are formed by states and provinces, which are further divided into smaller local levels. Education in both countries is decentralized and local level administrations are responsible for the implementation of education policies.

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