Google Australia calls for mandatory comp sci until year 10

Google says that Australia must use education to turn from a nation of technology consumers to technology creators.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Google has called upon the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to increase the exposure of Australian primary and secondary school students to computer science, by making the new Digital Technologies subject mandatory from kindergarten until year 10.

In an edited submission to ACARA on the technology section of the Australian Curriculum, Google Australia engineering director Alan Noble said Australia must ask itself whether it wants to be a nation of technology consumers, or technology creators.

"One costs money; one generates money," wrote Noble. "Shifting our focus as a nation from the consumption of technology to the creation of technology will help us compete in an increasingly global and connected world."

Citing a previous Google-backed study into the startup ecosystem, Noble repeated claims that the tech sector could add AU$109 billion and 540,000 new jobs to the Australian economy by 2033.

"A highly skilled workforce is the key to unlocking this value," he said.

In order to reverse the trend of falling numbers of university computer science students, Google called upon ACARA to make its Digital Technologies subject mandatory until the 10th grade, make the studying of one general purpose programming language a must, and separate Digital Technology into a distinct learning area for the purposes of economic and career awareness.

"This would make the curriculum consistent with trends in computer science education in the US, the UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and countries such as Vietnam, where in many cases it is required in schools from K to 10," said Noble.

In the February draft curriculum (PDF) prepared by ACARA, the subject of Digital Technologies is currently paired with the Design and Technologies subject under a single Technologies banner.

The curriculum is intended to help students become both users and developers of IT.

"There is a clear relationship between the Digital Technologies curriculum and the ICT general capability. The capability assists students to become effective users of ICT. The Digital Technologies curriculum assists students to become confident developers of digital solutions," the curriculum states.

The new Digital Technologies subject is not a drop-in replacement for previous computer science subjects; while it may involve programming and computer science concepts, that is not the sole aim of the subject.

"The focus is on the strengthening of computational thinking, logic, and problem-solving capability to build capacity for the future and to apply to a wide range of situations," said ACARA in an information sheet (PDF).

After this round of consultation, ACARA's draft technologies curriculum will be revised and available for public viewing from September. Once ministerial approval is achieved, the final curriculum will be published in late 2013.

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