Digital curriculum in NZ schools: ‘How much longer do our children have to wait?’

Ian McCrae, Frances Valintine and Ian Taylor urge Education Minister Hekia Parata to overhaul the curriculum now, and not spend another year on reviews.

By Divina Paredes
July 11, 2016

"Every month we deliberate, every year we spend on reviews, results in another group of children missing out."

Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae, The Mind Lab chair Frances Valintine and Animation Research CEO Ian Taylor have sent an urgent message to Education Minister Hekia Parata to fast track the inclusion of digital technology to the school curriculum.

In an open letter, the three reacted to the announcement last week by Parata that digital technology will be included in the NZ curriculum, but the Government will consult with various groups, design new curriculum content, and develop objectives for the programme, until the end of next year.

They said there were already many excellent recommendations from the 12-month review in 2015 by the Ministry of Education, industry, educationalists and others such as the Institute of IT Professionals.

Adoption of these recommendations has mostly been ignored, they said.

The three believe the announcement by Parata constitutes "modest changes" that did not address the fundamental problems of the education system.

"Unless your Ministry takes a bolder stance, our children will continue to be educationally disadvantaged and under-skilled for high paying tech jobs," they said.

"In addition, tech sector growth will continue to be hindered and we will become increasingly reliant on immigration for technical staff."

As has been highlighted on many occasions, the root cause of the problem is that Digital Technology is taught as a nonacademic vocational subject alongside woodwork, metalwork, cookery and sewing, they stated.

"This situation has to change if we are to attract academic and skilled students into an industry that is already a significant driver of our country's economic growth.

"In today's world, technical and digital literacy is of equal importance to English literacy and it is essential that progress be made in the way we educate and prepare our children. It has taken six years to get to this point, including a 12-month review and a further seven months of deliberations.

"The first essential change is that Digital Technology has to be separated from these vocational subjects and become a standalone subject of significance, on a par with maths and science.

"Our secondary school students should be presented with an academic option developing their ability to understand computer logic, code and design."

The three said they are writing not only as members of the tech community but also as parents.

"We ask that you treat this matter with urgency. It is too important for our children, our industry and the future success of our nation."

Source: CIO New Zealand