Can do better: Tech industry report on Australia's tech curriculum

Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie ropable, blames intractable teachers for resistance to new subject


Industry has reacted unkindly to Australia's decision to walk away from previous plans to teach digital technologies – including computation thinking – to all students from kindergarten until the fourth year of high school.

A review of Australia's national curriculum, released yesterday, recommended that the recently-created digital technologies curriculum be taught as part of other subjects instead of as a discrete course. Only in year nine, the third year of High School, will dedicated technology courses become available as electives.

Matt Barrie, CEO of crowdsourcing site freelancer.com, told The Reg “The people that run this country are fast turning it into a shipwreck.”

“I think the fundamental problem here is the education bureaucracy does not want change because our teachers themselves are not technically literate or willing and in most cases even capable of up skilling,” he wrote. Barrie also lamented the review's reliance on the opinions of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) , a body he has often argued is not in touch with the realities of the technology industries.

The ACS expressed some disappointment with the decision to move away from a discrete digital technologies curriculum, saying that while it “has welcomed the report into the ACARA curriculum review, and its consideration of the technologies & ICT learning area” it wishes to express “concern in the recommendation that the technologies learning area not be introduced until year 9.”

“This recommendation, should it be adopted, would place Australian students at a significant disadvantage against students from the UK, who will be learning technology and ICT from the Foundation level,” the Society's statement said.

“While there is a view that ICT contributes to a crowded curriculum, the ACS will continue to argue that ICT is a fundamental and critical curriculum area that should form the core of the curriculum, along with numeracy and literacy, as the economy and jobs market becomes increasingly digitally focused.”

“If we don’t step in today and start providing the right digital education from a young age, we are at risk of having a generation of school leavers who will miss out on the education they need to be the innovators, entrepreneurs and digital leaders of tomorrow,” the statement adds.

“Some of the recommendations are a small step in the right direction, but what our curriculum needs is a giant leap into the future.”

SallyAnn Williams, Senior Program Manager at Google Australia, did not criticise the decision but said "For Australians to move from consumers of technology, to creators of technology, we need to be bold in bringing more computational thinking into our classrooms. We have an ongoing commitment to working with both primary and secondary teachers to increase their understanding and confidence around teaching computer science subjects at primary and secondary level".

The Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA) is also cool on the decision. While the Association told us "We agree that implementation of the Digital Technologies Curriculum must be supported by appropriate teacher training and that this is imperative to achieving the outcomes required," it worries that "Stepping back from the current Digital Technologies Curriculum proposed by ACARA will effectively result in Australia being out of step with trends in ICT and computer science education in countries such as the USA, UK, NZ, the Netherlands and even Vietnam. This poses serious risks to Australia’s ongoing competitiveness in the global digital economy.

AIIA is concerned that Australia is not taking the development of deep ICT related skills and capabilities seriously enough. This includes addressing the need to embed ICT skills development in the school curriculum, including the formative primary years of school." ®

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