Daily News Roundup

August 8, 2018

Image: ABC News

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8

The NAPLAN results for more than 1 million children have been caught up in controversy as education heads raise the alarm that it may not be possible to compare scores across the country.

The national assessment authority, ACARA, was due to publish a summary of the preliminary NAPLAN results of 1 million students today, but there is disagreement between some states and the authority over how scores should be publicly reported, the ABC reports.

A confidential document seen by the ABC reveals ACARA has been canvassing options for how and when to report this year’s results since June and the implications of each one, including the “reputational risk” to the national testing body, NAPLAN and My School data.

The ABC said it understood no agreement was reached and several state department heads questioned whether data was statistically comparable between the new online tests and the pen-and-paper version after seeing their students’ test scores.

The education bosses will meet with ACARA in Canberra today to try and resolve the impasse.

Principals are now speaking out about the uncertainty, saying they are concerned the data will be delayed further.

“Parents are asking when the results are coming,” said Julie Ross, the principal of Kogarah High School in Sydney’s south.

“I have to throw my hands up and say ‘look I’m sorry, I can’t tell you.’ There’s a lot of disquiet.”

About 200,000 children sat online tests this year, which were designed to be adaptive and extend brighter students by prompting them to answer more difficult questions.

ACARA consistently assured parents, schools and education ministers the different test results would be able to be accurately reported on a common scale.

ACARA chief Robert Randall said in an open letter to parents about NAPLAN on the day of the test this year: “Regardless of whether your child takes NAPLAN online or on paper, the results will be comparable with those of other students and from previous years.”

That assurance is now under question.

If it is decided that student NAPLAN results cannot be mapped against a nationally consistent mean, it would undermine the test’s central purpose as a point-in-time check of student progress in literacy and numeracy against benchmarks.

Ms Ross said many principals had long been concerned about consistency between online and pen-and-paper test results.

“It’s a bit like comparing apples and pears, I don’t know how you can,” she said.

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Britain’s former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has been told to apologise by British Prime Minister Theresa May and other senior Conservatives for a newspaper column in which he wrote burka-wearing women looked like “letter boxes” and bank robbers.

Mr Johnson, who quit the Government last month in a dispute over Brexit, made the remarks in a Daily Telegraph article published on Monday.

Mr Johnson said he opposed banning burkas and other face-covering garments, but wrote that it was, “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes”.

His article drew criticism from Muslim groups and fellow politicians.

Mohamed Sheikh, founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said Mr Johnson’s article had been “totally out of order”. Middle East Minister Alistair Burt criticised Mr Johnson for comments he said, “many people would find offensive”.

Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said in a tweet he had asked Mr Johnson to apologise. Ms May said she agreed with Mr Lewis.

“I do think that we all have to be very careful about the language and terms we use, and some of the terms Boris used describing people’s appearance obviously have offended,” she said.

There was no immediate sign Mr Johnson planned to back down.

The former mayor of London is one of Britain’s best-known politicians. He resigned as foreign secretary in July, accusing Ms May of killing “the Brexit dream” with her plan to seek close economic ties with the European Union after the UK leaves the bloc.

Johnson using Muslim women as ‘convenient political football’

The resignation solidified Mr Johnson’s position as a leader of the pro-Brexit wing of the Conservative Party, which is deeply divided over its attitude to the EU.

Many expect Ms May to face a leadership challenge if faltering Brexit negotiations don’t improve. Mr Johnson is likely to be a contender to replace her.

Some suspected Mr Johnson’s burka comments were intended to boost his appeal among right-wing members of the party.

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A major rigging scandal has engulfed one of Tokyo’s medical schools, with an investigation revealing the university deliberately marked down all female applicants to limit the number of women studying at the school.

It is understood the senior officials at Tokyo Medical University wanted to keep the number of women at about 30 per cent, so they altered the computerised marking system.

The practice had reportedly been going on for more than a decade.

The report on the school’s applications process also found that officials boosted the scores of some applicants who were children of the university’s graduates so the institution could garner donations from the parents.

“We deeply apologise for having inconvenienced and caused so many people pain with such a serious scandal,” university director Tetsuo Yukioka said.

“Society is changing rapidly and we need to respond to that, and any organisation that fails to utilise women will grow weak and fail to contribute to society.”

University officials said they would now “sincerely” consider their response, including the possibility of compensation.

But they maintained they were unaware of the manipulation.

It is understood the practice of subtracting points from female candidates was done to prevent a shortage of doctors at affiliated hospitals, as some at the medical college believed that female doctors tended to resign or take long periods of leave after getting married or giving birth.

As a consequence, the computerised marking system automatically deducted the entrance exam marks for all female applicants.

Last month, prosecutors indicted the two top executives at the university on bribery charges.

They were charged with allowing the son of a former top education ministry official to be admitted to the school illegally in exchange for favouritism in connection with a government subsidy program.

An investigation by the university’s in-house lawyers concluded the official’s son had his score boosted by up to 49 points.

It also showed the scores of men — including those reappearing after failing once or twice — were also raised by at least 10 points.

The primary exam had a maximum of 400 points. 

This daily news roundup is curated with stories from ABC News.

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