CANBERRA, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Australian children as young as five years old could be subject to national literacy and numeracy tests under a proposal supported by the nation's education minister.
The test, which was recommended by a government-appointed panel on Monday, would consist of a one-on-one interview with a teacher in an "informal" assessment.
Simon Birmingham, Australia's Minister for Education and Training, convened the panel earlier in 2017 to investigate options for grade one testing.
He strongly backed the test on Monday, saying it could be implemented as early as 2019 if state governments agreed to the changes.
"We've seen national and international tests that highlight while Australia has an excellent education system, our results have stagnated or even declined in some case," Birmingham said in a media release on Monday.
"The idea behind these checks is to ensure students don't slip through the cracks. By identifying exactly where students are at in their development early at school, educators can intervene to give extra support to those who need it to stop them slipping behind the pack.
"Basic literacy and numeracy are the building blocks upon which future school success depends. The establishment of such skills is too important to be left to chance."
Under the current system, students are subjected to National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests in grades three, five, seven and nine.
Jennifer Buckingham, chair of the panel, said that extending the tests further would identify children who are lagging behind earlier in their education.
"By Year 3 (the first year in which students undertake NAPLAN assessments), it is difficult, expensive, and inefficient to remediate gaps in literacy and numeracy skills," she wrote in the report.
The latest National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results indicated that one in 20 grade three students were not meeting minimum literacy standards with that figure deteriorating to one in 14 students by year nine.
The panel said it was vital that the grade one school-wide results not be made public as they are for higher years.
"Every effort should be made to ensure that ... data from the Year 1 checks is not used for the purpose of creating school 'league tables'," the report said.