Digital technology coming to the NZ Curriculum

The changes in the NZ Curriculum won't come into effect until 2018.
SERGEY RASULOV/123RF

The changes in the NZ Curriculum won't come into effect until 2018.

Algorithms and programming are officially moving into the classroom, but not until 2018.

Digital technology will be written into the New Zealand Curriculum and come under the technology umbrella, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced on Tuesday.

The change got a lukewarm reception from the IT industry, which said the move was "like telling a subject as essential as maths that they have to be a part of PE".

New Zealand needs skilled graduates for its growing information technology sector, Parata said.

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Digital technology is being formally moved into learning as a strand of technology, Parata announced at the NZTech Advance Education Technology Summit in Auckland.

"This is the first change to the New Zealand Curriculum since its introduction in 2007 and reflects our Government's commitment to championing 21st century practice in teaching and learning," she said.

Digital technology will cover six themes, ministry spokesman Karl Le Quesne told the summit.

They will be: algorithms, programming, data representation, digital devices and infrastructure, digital applications and humans and computers.

But the Government still has to work with experts to lay out exactly what it will look like, meaning it won't come into effect until 2018.

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The changes announced mean kids will learn about digital technologies from Year 1 - instead of the subject sitting with senior secondary students, the Institute of IT Professionals NZ (IITP) said.

The organisation represents thousands of IT professionals in New Zealand and welcomed that expansion.

But more change is needed, including making digital technology a stand-alone subject area, chief executive Paul Matthews said.

"It's like telling a subject as essential as maths that they have to be a part of PE. Both are important, but they're simply different things," he said.

"Digital technologies needs its own home within the curriculum. Without this, the outcome announced today simply won't get us where we need to go as a country."

The lack of "real funding" and also of quick action were disappointing for the industry, Matthews said.

"The tech industry was looking for leadership, not two years of meetings and reviews. More urgency is needed if the Government is serious about positioning New Zealand for the real economic growth our industry can bring."

The Royal Society of New Zealand said the next steps in the programme were critical to making it worthwhile.

"It is also vital that those students (around 10 per cent) who will undertake computer programming in the early stages of their working life get opportunities to study aspects of computer science in senior secondary school, and have that recognised as a mainstream subject,"  chief executive Dr Andrew Cleland said.

Investment in computer science education would boost future economic development - teacher professional development and good classroom materials would be needed to put the ministry's changes into action, he said.

Digital technology will be included as a strand of the technology learning area in the New Zealand Curriculum, and as a whenu (strand) within the Hangarau Wāhanga Ako of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

It will be fully integrated in 2018.

 - Stuff

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