It aims to prepare children to participate in our increasingly digital world by equipping them with the skills they need; not just to become competent consumers of technology, but to design and create our shared technological future. This comes at a time when digital technologies and associated industries represent 16% of the Australian GDP and are recognised as having the fastest growth. The proposed curriculum is a crucial step in the right direction toward engaging Australian students to consider computing pathways, particularly females who are significantly underrepresented in the field.
The curriculum focuses on developing algorithmic and computational thinking skills, gradually building toward the use of visual programming and, in the later years, general-purpose programming. It underwent a rigorous development and review process, in partnership with the IT industry, universities, and school educators and is now awaiting final Minister endorsement.
The recent review of the Digital Technologies curriculum has caused serious concern among computing and education experts. The report does not acknowledge the importance of this learning area for a modern curriculum, particularly in years F-6. In contrast, current recommendations are made to introduce the learning area from Year 9. This collapses a detailed and comprehensive exploration of STEM and ICT into two years, thus depriving students from studying fundamental concepts. Moreover, researchers recommend STEM gender gap interventions are best served by designing educational environments that will engage children in STEM-relevant activities, from the very early years of school. This introduction at such a late stage in the development of students will disengage a vast majority, including seriously underrepresented groups, such as females.
Reviewers claim the F-8 curriculum is overcrowded, yet, fail to acknowledge that Australian teachers already integrate learning areas in primary years and thus have shown that they have the capability and skills to incorporate complex curricula. Research has also shown that computing lends itself extremely well to other F-6 areas, particularly literacy and mathematics and allows for fundamental skill development in these areas.
Teacher professional development (PD) has been recognised as a challenge in the review and early curriculum development, however, should not be the reason to exclude an essential learning area. Industry, academics and educators have already been proactively collaborating to deliver free PD and resources across Australia. This support will continue to grow. The Australian Government recently announced a 12 million dollar investment to restore STEM in schools with computational thinking and coding across the curriculum; an initiative best served and supported with an F-10 Digital Technologies curriculum.
Australia has a valuable opportunity to prepare our Australian students for jobs of the future and to participate in an increasingly digital workforce. Australia's curriculum is timely, at a time when England, Finland, New Zealand and many other leading nations are implementing computing curriculum into primary and secondary classrooms.
Australia can lead F-10 computing education by providing every child an opportunity to understand how the technologies they use function, to develop fundamental literacy in coding and to have opportunities to create digital projects. Let’s prepare our future generations to be creators, not just consumers of digital technology!