Nikki Kaye reveals digital shakeup for school curriculum
The school curriculum is in for a shakeup, with the Government proposing to shift education into a "digitally oriented system".
Education Minister Nikki Kaye announced on Wednesday that the Government would spend $40 million on raising teachers' skills to deliver the new curriculum, which will involve all pupils from years one to 10 taking part in digital technologies education.
The new content will cover two key areas – "computational thinking" and "designing and developing digital outcomes" – which are likely to include computer programming, as well as "unique Maori content".
The Principals' Federation applauded the announcement, but said only 4000 of the country's 100,000 teachers currently had the skills to put the vision into practice.
Kaye launched the Digital Technologies-Hangarau Matihiki curriculum in Auckland on Wednesday morning with Prime Minister Bill English.
She said it would break new ground, but also acknowledged it could be controversial, given there were already concerns about the amount of time children spent online.
"A big advantage of a digital education environment is that sensible use of automation, along with reduced bureaucracy, can help reduce teachers' workload and let them focus on what's important: teaching and learning," Kaye said.
"Robotics, artificial intelligence and advances in connectivity are all revolutionising our world, including our businesses, industry and community.
"From New Zealand's work in movie-making to Rocket Lab launching rockets into outer space, world-class technology is playing a major role.
"Our curriculum needs to keep pace with this fast-changing world. The new curriculum content sets out what students need to learn to become not just fluent users, but also skilled creators, of digital innovations and inventions."
The new content is expected to be available for use from January 2018, with a transition period of two years, and the new curriculum in full use from the start of 2020.
Principals' Federation president Whetu Cormick said making sure teachers were up to speed in time would be a challenge.
The Ministry of Education would need to work out a way to lure science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) graduates into teaching, when they could earn big salaries in the technology sector, he said.
He also urged the ministry to ensure whanau from disadvantaged areas were targeted.
"They'll be the ones working in 10 or 20 years. Unless they are given opportunities in this area, and resources to excel in this area, they won't be contributing to the economy in the way the Government envisions."
New Zealand Secondary Principals' Council chairman James Morris said the digital curriculum would be a significant change, but it did not seem a huge step forward from what many secondary schools were doing already in computing courses.
At Muritai School in Eastbourne, Lower Hutt, children were already learning to code, along with other digital technology, principal Bec Power said.
She was excited to see the curriculum catching up with what was already happening at schools.
Muritai had a room dedicated to Stem subjects, and every child used that room once a week.
Children were exposed through all subjects to "future focused" learning and thinking, and that included coding. The school also had a 3D printer, and was in the process of getting more robotics equipment.
Porirua College principal Ragne Maxwell said there was already a gap in what students could access online, in that not all homes had computers, or the internet.
She wanted to see an investment in getting wi-fi into the poorest areas in New Zealand.
The Government needed to look at equity in the areas that needed it, and look at the wide issue of access for students to devices, and access of the internet at home.
Introducing more digital technology into the curriculum would not mean throwing other subjects or areas out, Power said.
Kaye said: "An Australian report indicates that around 40 per cent of current jobs are considered at high risk of automation over the next 10 to 15 years, and this trend could be expected to apply to similar developed countries such as New Zealand.
"This means tomorrow's business leaders, scientists, engineers, farmers, urban planners, health professionals and even artists will all benefit from knowledge and skills relating to software development, digital media content and technology design."
The ministry will consult on the changes before their introduction. Initial consultation runs until the end of August.