Next government must ensure coding in schools is a priority

Computer programming in schools is a key national issue that needs to be addressed if we have any hope of becoming a hub of innovation and technology

Computer programming in schools is a key national issue that needs to be addressed if we have any hope of becoming a hub of innovation and technology.

The Australian Workforce Productivity Agency predicts that in 2025 there could be an undersupply of qualifications for key ICT occupations, with employment projected to grow between 64 and 72 per cent faster than overall employment growth, and account for around 5 per cent of all employment in 2025.

Australia is already lagging behind 12 European countries which have computer programing and coding as part of their curriculum, including Singapore, New Zealand and England. Digital proficiency will soon be a foundation skill, as important as reading and numeracy. It will increasingly be the determinant of job opportunity and security.

Preparing our children for the digital jobs of tomorrow

The workplace of the future that current students will enter will include job roles that don’t even exist yet. As technology enables new business models that disrupt age-old industries, we need to prepare students to be ready to face this new digital landscape.

Automation technology extends across business units and disciplines, a grounded understanding of the building blocks of the Web – what we know as code – will be just as important as literacy and numeracy standards.

Knowledge of programming, paired with computational thinking and an understanding of how computers and networks operate will be a powerful combination of skills to equip Aussie kids with the right tools needed to grasp the huge opportunities available in the digital age.

Teachers must be at the heart of new coding initiatives

If coding is going to be successfully integrated into the primary curriculum, it has to be taught, in the main, by generalist teachers who don't have degrees or any background in Computer Science.

Read more: Vic Tech Schools to boost STEM skills, state govt says

Coding doesn’t have to be taught solely on a computer - computational thinking, problem solving and designing algorithms are basic elements that can be taught by general teachers. One successful initiative from the U.K. is ‘unplugged’ lessons.

Children use skipping ropes to make a grid on the floor of their basketball and are told to place photos of landmarks from their suburb in some of the spaces. They then draw arrows on each space to design a step by step route to solve a problem such as getting to the supermarket, via the primary school, from a start position. What they're effectively doing is designing an algorithm.

Get with the program

Australian business leaders, industry, demographers and the Chief Scientist are urging for speedy action to prepare for this future demand. Central to this, is to improve digital literacy in schools, and embed coding in the Australian Curriculum from primary school.

The Australian Computer Society clearly identifies the challenge; in ten years’ computer programming will be the most common language in the world. Whoever is the next government must ensure every young Australian can read and write the global language of the digital age through coding in schools initiatives and investing in teacher’s training.

Craig Law is managing director ANZ at Progress

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