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WA’s peak parent group has slammed a plan to test pre-primary students next year as a waste of money, saying it’s “ridiculous” to assess children as young as four.

As part of its strategy to improve literacy and numeracy across WA, the Education Department will start to roll out the 30-minute assessments in the first term in public schools. The Sunday Times can reveal some of the sample questions likely to be used in the so-called “on entry assessments”, which are aimed at picking up early problems.

Pre-primary students in public schools will be asked to: Speak about a certain topic, such as friends or favourite games, for two to three minutes. Estimate how many teddy bears are in a cup. Put objects, from smallest to tallest, in order. Count backwards. Match dots with a number on a page.

WA Council of State School Organisations president Rob Fry attacked the $2 million plan, saying he expected parents to be angered by the “ineffective” results.

“I just find this truly remarkable when you’re dealing with children of such a young age,” he said.

“If you get an exceptionally shy child, you’re asking a four-year-old to talk on a subject for two minutes and some of them won’t want to say anything at that age. Does that mean they’ve got a literacy problem? No, they might be shy.

“It’s ineffective and you are going to get such diverse responses between a child coming from an indigenous community to a child living in a Perth suburb with a highly socially active family.”

School Support Programs executive director David Axworthy said the Education Department based its tests on the Victorian model because it was the “best tool to meet the needs of WA children”. It would also enable shared resources between the states.

“It will leave WA well placed for the introduction of the national curriculum when it is produced in 2011,” he said.

WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen supported the plan because it would allow teachers to set benchmarks and adapt their programs to suit children’s needs.

Education Minister Liz Constable said children at risk of falling behind would be identified earlier, allowing urgent action to be taken.

Under the plan, students in 50 schools will be tested in term one before all public schools will have access to the assessments in the final term. From 2011, each pre-primary student will be tested at the start of the year.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Allegations of cheating by students in immigration exams has seen the launch of a corruption investigation.

Australia’s largest international student service, IDP Australia, is investigating possible corruption among its staff after students in Sydney were caught cheating on exams it conducts for the Department of Immigration, The Sun-Herald newspaper reports.

Copies of the May International English Language Testings System (IELTS) exam were sold for between $12,000 and $18,000, one source claims.

“These have been leaking out for months,” the source told newspaper.

“It’s like a chain of command. It came from the official service who gives it out and takes his cut.

IDP would not confirm how many people had been caught cheating.

“Cheating in IELTS tests is not commonplace,” an IDP Australia spokeswoman said.

“‘However given the high stakes involved, attempts to cheat or engage in other fraudulent activity such as identity fraud do occur.

“Recently in Australia a number of test takers have been detected in their attempt to cheat in the IELTS test. Whether or not it was an internal problem, we don’t know.”

IDP is investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Department has defended its outsourcing of English tests, which have been handled by IDP since 1994.

Source  :  www.ninemsn.com.au

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