Education system must change: equipping learners for a digital society

Issue: Volume 96, Number 6

Posted: 10 April 2017
Reference #: 1H9d7G

Representatives from the education and business sectors met to discuss all things digital education at the second Implementation Reference Group meeting on 15 March.

Our education system needs to meet the demands of a changing economy, the changing needs of learners and place a greater focus on more equitable outcomes for all children and young people, says Associate Minister of Education Hon Nikki Kaye.

Minister Kaye was speaking to more than 45 representatives of the education and business sectors during the second Implementation Reference Group meeting on 15 March at the Royal Society of New Zealand in Wellington.

The meeting received an update on curriculum design and agreed how to set up sector working groups to progress the Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko curriculum content with the Ministry of Education.

This followed Education Minister Hekia Parata’s announcement on 5 July 2016 to strengthen Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko within the technology learning area and Hangarau Wāhanga Ako of The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Minister Kaye said that a more explicit focus on Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko is needed in the National Curriculum to be woven through students’ teaching and learning as part of the transformation of what it means to be educated in the 21st century.

This represents a fundamental shift: moving students beyond being users of digital technologies to being creators of new and innovative digital solutions to meet emerging and future needs of New Zealand society, she said.

“New technologies and ways of doing business are totally changing how our economy and society function ... Kiwis will need new skills and capabilities, not just to learn and work but to take part in everyday life."

“We need the collective effort of the education sector, community and industry to make these changes meaningful for learners in classrooms and every day,” Minister Kaye said.

Graeme Muller, Chief Executive of NZ Tech, the technology sector industry group that seeks more prosperity for New Zealand through better use of technology, says he fully supports the Ministry’s work to ensure the education system adapts and evolves to capture digital technology changes.

“We’re at the cutting edge so we know what it will be like for kids currently in school. Many of the jobs people are being trained for now will be automated so, if we keep doing what we are doing, it won’t work in this fast-changing environment,” Mr Muller said.

“We need to become skilled at making machines rather than those who use the machines. If we get good at that then we are more likely to be the country that can produce rather than use, and that makes our economy far more productive and diverse.”

In New Zealand the digital technology sector is the fastest growing exporter and employer, not only within the sector but also in other sectors such as banks, airlines, agriculture and primary industries.

“Every organisation is out in the market looking for digital and high technology skills and we need education to provide those skills,” he said.

Challenges for the education system include providing the resources or teaching tools needed to deliver digital technologies learning and ensuring this was done equitably so all learners have access.

It also means giving teachers the ability and confidence to teach digital technologies, and engaging the community and public so they understand why the implementation of Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko is so important.

Julie McMahon, President of the NZ Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers, says implementing Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko would be a major improvement for learners and the subject.

“At the moment our (digital technologies) learning objectives and achievement standards don’t start until NCEA Level 1, so students are expected to have all the necessary knowledge and skill in place from primary through to secondary level."

“You would not throw a child into NCEA Level 1 maths without the necessary preparation and steps through primary, yet we do that in digital technologies,” Mrs McMahon said.

Most students do not know of the digital technologies learner pathways or even that so many career opportunities exist, yet research shows that if girls are not exposed to digital technologies by late primary school they do not feel confident to enter into it by the time they reach secondary school.

Building learners’ confidence and showing them what it is about will lead many to elect digital technologies as a possible career pathway earlier.

“And we are so short of workers in the digital technology sector but we lose them to other fields because there is not enough visibility of learner pathways. We can make a huge difference by being visible early and preparing learners,” Mrs McMahon said.

“It’s a huge problem worldwide and Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko would help us turn this around in New Zealand. Computer science and technology now underpins all other areas of learning."

“Whether learners go on to work in sports technology, education, engineering or languages, all are interwoven with digital technology. Investing in building confidence early, for our learners and our teachers, is imperative to building the kind of engaged, informed, innovative and participatory learners and citizens.”

Hēmi Dale, the Director of Māori Medium Education at the University of Auckland, says that some of the challenge for Māori medium student teachers will be the acquisition of the specific hangarau matihiko (digital technology) vocabulary and terms.

“The reality is we want hangarau matihiko words to become normalised within the language."

“As indigenous people we are constantly looking for ways in which our language can engage with the world. Although connected to the past, our language and culture continues to evolve as it responds to the push and pull of the wider world."

“These are exciting times and we want to be at the forefront of these developments. With the Ministry looking to facilitate implementation in an inclusive way, we can work collaboratively to achieve jointly negotiated outputs for our students,” Mr Dale said.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 5:37 pm, 10 April 2017

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