With the federal election coming in September, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) is continuing to push for national curriculum reform, saying that there needs to be more support for teachers in ICT and efforts to promote tertiary study of technology among high school students.
ACS head of policy and external affairs, Adam Redman, said he would like to see the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) - the authority that is responsible for developing a national curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 12 - extend mandatory study of technology beyond Year 8.
“We could see that the national curriculum in technology as proposed by the ACARA could have recognised the role of technology and IT a bit better. For example, we argued that it should be a compulsory subject through to Year 10, it’s only a compulsory subject to Year 8,” he said.
“Australia needs to move up the value chain of IT and the more senior level of study in Year 10 would only assist that.”
The ACS would like to see how the ACARA is going to support teachers in rural areas who may not have the resources or expertise needed to implement the technology curriculum, Redman said.
“[The government has] a new national curriculum being proposed by ACARA about teaching technology; it’s meant to be implemented across Australia. It’s going to be a lot easier to implement that in a school with a lot of resources than it is for a school in the country with maybe only two teachers with neither that know [a lot] about technology, for example, Redman" said.
“Last year it was great that the government was saying we want technology as part of the national curriculum. We thought it was fantastic, and we had a lot to say about the curriculum. But we also raised a question, saying: ‘It’s all very good to have this stuff but are the teachers going to be supported in teaching it?’
"We would like to see how teachers are going to be supported in teaching this to make sure it’s a success. That’s one of things we would like to see highlighted in the election debate.”
The ACS would also like to see more policy on updating ICT education and for it to be a key discussion during the election, Redman said.
“In some high schools students are assessed on how well they can use the computer, not on how well they understand the computer. Kids today are born technology literate. They don’t need to be taught how to use the computer; they need to be taught what makes the computer work.
“So translated into policy that means a greater emphasis and support to teachers and to encourage high school students to learn maths and sciences so they learn can the fundamentals of computational maths, for example, and relationship mapping, and by the time they get to university they are not confronted with having to figure out what an algorithm is.”
Beyond education, Redman said he would like to see how the government will be able to sustain the digital economy for the future and for ICT skills to be at the centre of that discussion.
“We would like to see in the election [more] discussion on the role of ICT skills in Australia’s future for the economy, for our society, for the environment and for every sector that gets discussed. If they talk about manufacturing, then we want to hear about ... technology’s role in that and what skills we need as a nation to ensure that our manufacturing sector, for example, can adapt and evolve in the Asian century.”
Redman said with the digital economy worth 10 per cent of GDP, government investment in ICT skills is crucial to future economic prosperity. He said with not enough students going through to university and taking up a career in ICT, there will not be enough skills to keep up with the digital economy.
According to the ACS Statistical Compendium 2012, the number of students completing an ICT-related degree has halved over a decade, and women only make up 19.73 per cent of the total ICT-related occupation workforce.
“I think the government has a leadership role in addressing those issues. I think one of the ways is to support the teaching of IT, to make it more representative and fun,” Redman said.