Warm response to funding for coding education

Government to spend $3.5 million to expose students to programming

The government will spend $12 million improving STEM education in primary and secondary schools as part of its 'Competitiveness Agenda', which also includes changes to how employee share options are taxed.

In a statement the government said the funding would include $7.4 million for "innovative mathematics resources" for teachers and students, $3.5 million "to provide greater exposure to computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools", $500,000 Pathways in Technology Early College High School pilot program, and funding to increase participation in STEM summer school programs, particularly among girls.

Australian Computer Society CEO Alan Patterson welcomed the government's $3.5 million funding for coding education but said "much more needs to be done".

The ACS earlier this week criticised the national curriculum review for recommending that schools only introduce a specific technology subject for students from Year 9 onwards.

The curriculum review also drew ire from the Australian Council of Deans of Information and Communications Technology.

"Cutting the development of fundamental computational thinking so necessary for the jobs of tomorrow is equivalent to reducing the capabilities of school leavers to second class citizens on a global scale" said Professor Iwona Miliszewska, the organisation's president.

"We must recognise basic coding as a foundation skill and build it into the national curriculum," the ACS's Patterson said.

"This needs to start at a young age, so that our students are better prepared and equipped to compete globally, as other countries such as the UK have these programs in place. With a focus on technology for students in schools means we need better professional development for teachers in the technology space."

"ICT is uniquely dynamic — and will remain that way for the foreseeable future," Patterson said.

"Many of today’s young people will work in jobs nobody has even heard of today. This requires a lifelong approach to skills and education in the technology area. Reskilling and retraining may be important for those who are seeking new opportunities at home or abroad.

"To provide an appropriate pipeline of skilled workers, we urgently need to reverse the declining trend of people choosing to study ICT."

The ACS CEO also said that the government's Competitiveness Agenda report lacked any focus on boosting the digital literacy of small and medium Australian enterprises.

StartupAUS also expressed dismay over the axing of a separate digital technologies curriculum that ran from foundation (kindergarten) to Year 10.

"It is encouraging to see the government recognise the importance of a tech-savvy and technically educated workforce as essential to Australia’s future," said Alan Noble, a StartAUS board member and Google Australia's director of engineering.

"Capitalising on the digital economy will only be possible if we have people with the ICT skills necessary to develop products that can compete globally.

"As studies show the best way of increasing participation in computer science is to start young, and we hope that the focus on STEM subjects is brought forward to its logical conclusion – which is to have skills like computational thinking and coding being introduced at primary school level as outlined in the new Digital Technologies Curriculum."

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