Australia's Digital Tech curriculum looks to be shelved for another year

No release date for curriculm review means computing course remains in limbo

For over a year, I've tracked the development of Australia's Digital Technologies curriculum, the nation's first effort to introduce a national plan for teaching computing from kindergarten to year ten.

I've reported on it because industry wants the curriculum: it's thought that teaching every kid computational thinking will close the skills gap employers always complain about. Personally, I just like the idea that Australian kids will all be taught that computers are something they can control, not just vessels for software they fancy. It seems an appropriately modern thing to teach kids to wield information-handling tools, not least because we still teach kids how to work metal and wood.

Early in 2014 the curriculum disappeared from view because the federal government wanted to conduct a review of the national curriculum. That review was policy before last year's election, but had the unfortunate effect of sidelining the digital technologies curriculum despite it being signed off by all parties. Instead of being available to schools in 2014, the curriculum was shelved pending the review.

I've now learned, through the Federal Department of Education, that the Government is sitting on the review. It was delivered on August 15th and “The Minister is considering the recommendations in the report, which has not been made public at this time.”

There's no sign of the report emerging. As the Department told me, “Timing of the public release of the Final Report is at the Government’s discretion.”

The Department's response to my questions also pointed out that if the review requires any changes, the States and Territories will need to become involved and there's likely to be a collaborative and consultative process to develop new curricula.

That outcome shouldn't surprise because the review was in the government's education policy.

But that policy also stated an intention to “Restore the focus of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in primary and secondary schools.”

The Digital Technologies curriculum has been ready to go for nearly a year. Assuming it emerges from the review unscathed, it would sure be helpful if the review emerges sooner rather than later so that schools have a chance to use it in 2015.

Yet in October's second week it looks hard to imagine that schools or teachers will have time to prepare to deliver the curriculum next year.

So I also asked the Department if the goal to “restore the focus on technology” will be met if the Digital Technologies curriculum's implementation is postponed to 2016, or beyond.

The Department didn't answer that question. ®

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