Teaching computational thinking, digital technology and cyber security at primary school level has been identified by NZTech in a first-ever substantive report to be as integral as maths and English to the nation’s economy.
The New Zealand education system is not evolving fast enough to generate local talent to support the growth of the tech sector, says NZTech chief Graeme Muller.
“Technology is also generating rapid changes to work practices. It is critical for all children to develop skills to prepare them for the jobs of the future. The tech sector creates many good jobs and stimulates the economy, but the sector is constantly challenged by skills shortages.
“The Digital Nation New Zealand report we released today aims to deepen understanding and discussions about the benefits technology brings and the role that it could play in redefining the New Zealand we live in.
“Digital technologies are rapidly causing changes to work not seen since the industrial revolution. This is a global challenge and, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), schools have yet to take advantage of the potential of technology in the classroom in order to give every student the skills they need for today’s connected world.”
According to the OECD if New Zealand was to raise its education outcomes over a period of 20 years to a level comparable with Finland it would generate a 204 percent increase in GDP worth an additional $US258 billion. Technology will play a critical role in this evolution.
NZTech is recommending faster implementation of computational thinking and computer programming into the curricula and teaching throughout New Zealand schools from a pupil’s first year.
Digital Technology curriculum
Muller says NZTech supports the government’s initiative with the review of the Digital Technology curriculum and believe there is a strong argument to bring computational thinking (including coding and computer science) into primary schooling.
“The education sector needs to have a greater focus on enabling all students to acquire digital skills that will help them succeed in the modern workplace.”
There are interesting new efforts to train workers for the tech economy such as High Tech Youth in Auckland and Dev Academy in Wellington but addressing the supply side of the tech sector skills challenge begins in schools, adds Muller.
“Currently there are not enough students entering ICT study paths to supply the demand for skills by industry. New Zealand needs a skilled and innovative workforce in order to succeed in the global marketplace, for the tech sector to thrive and for all public and private sector organisations to perform.”