Digital technology curriculum inclusion: Good, but not good enough

Digital technology is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand school curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

Digital technology is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand school curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, but has been denied the status of a separate learning area, sparking protest from industry.

Education minister, Hekia Parata, announced the move at the NZTech Advance Education Technology Summit in Auckland, saying it reflected the government’s commitment to championing 21st century practice in teaching and learning.

“This is the first change to the New Zealand Curriculum since its introduction in 2007 … It will ensure that we have an education system that prepares children and young people for a future where digital fluency will be critical for success,” she said.

The move was welcomed by the Institute of IT Professionals NZ (IITP), but the organisation said it was disappointing that digital technology had not been made a separate subject area.

Digital technology will be included as a strand of the Technology learning area in the New Zealand Curriculum, and as a whenu within the Hangarau Wāhanga Ako of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

“Experts participating in the review from the tech profession, industry, digital technologies teachers, researchers and other domain experts were clear that moving it into its own subject learning area was absolutely necessary, thus the decision by the minister to block this was disappointing,” IITP said.

Digital technologies in schools currently sits alongside vocation-based subjects such as hard materials, food technology and textiles derived from woodwork, metalwork, cooking and sewing respectively.

The review decided that keeping it there would still achieve the change in focus and attention needed to prepare students for the digital world, and to enable New Zealand to achieve strong tech-led economic growth.

IITP chief executive, Paul Matthews, said: “While we absolutely welcome the introduction of digital technologies and computational thinking down to Year 1, and see this as an important step forward, our industry sees the lack of movement on the structure and position of digital technologies in schools as a real lost opportunity… It’s like telling a subject as essential as maths that they have to be a part of PE. Both are important, but they’re simply different things…

“Digital technologies needs its own home within the curriculum. Without this, the outcome announced today simply won’t get us where we need to go as a country.”

IITP said the minister had stopped short of truly transforming tech education in schools by refusing to create a proper focused home for digital technologies in its own learning area, or providing significant additional funding for professional development for teachers.

“Experts have made it clear that both are necessary to achieve the educational transformation needed to prepare students for today’s digital world,” the statement from the organisation said.

The decision is an outcome of the government’s Science and Society Strategic Plan, A Nation of Curious Minds: Te Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara. The government says it will consult with stakeholders, design new curriculum content and develop achievement objectives across the whole learner pathway in preparation for integrating digital technology into the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa in 2018.