Labor continues push for coding in schools

Labor leader Bill Shorten has called on the federal government to take up his idea behind introducing coding to the school curriculum.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has slammed the Abbott government for not placing a greater focus on introducing coding to schools as part of the 2015 Budget.

Shorten said last week's federal budget was a "missed opportunity" on Monday, saying it is important that the current education curriculum pre-emptively equip school children with coding skills for future jobs.

"I don't want our children just playing on apps invented overseas," he said. "I want Australians to design, create, and operate the apps and the computers and machines of the future."

Last Thursday, the opposition leader outlined that a Shorten Labor government would turn Australia into a science, start-up, and technology capital of the region. He said he would boost the skills of 10,000 current primary and secondary teachers, as well as train 25,000 new teachers who are science and technology graduates. Additionally, he promised to wipe the university debts of 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) students.

However, Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne hit back saying that work on STEM and computing coding in Australian schools was already well underway. The federal government said it is investing AU$3.5 million to ensure all students will have the opportunity to study computer coding in both primary and secondary school.

According to Pyne, the investment is part of the government's AU$12 million Industry, Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, which was announced in October 2014. The agenda has been designed to support the teaching of STEM, including implementing online curriculum resources in mathematics; providing seed funding to pilot a US-based 'P-tech' styled secondary education initiative; and increasing student participation through 'Summer schools for STEM students'.

"The Coalition Government is determined to ensure our schools give young Australians the skills both they and Australian businesses need to succeed in the highly competitive, high-tech, 21st century," Pyne said.

"We know that as computer driven smart-technology expands into every aspect of our recreational and working lives, there is an ever growing need for highly skilled workers in this global growth industry. All children will need to understand computational thinking and how it can contribute to their future.

"We are investing in computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools, and STEM education more broadly to ensure young Australians and our nation can grasp the opportunities the high-tech future offers."

Last week, during the Microsoft-led WeSpeakCode initiative, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged that the education sector has gone backwards, with the uptake of STEM learning among students having dropped significantly, and believed the way to reverse is to teach students how to code.

"Of our 600,000 workers in ICT, more than half work outside the traditional ICT sector. 75 percent of the fastest-growing occupations require STEM skills, but only half of year 12 students are studying science; that's down from 94 percent 20 years ago," Turnbull said.

"That is really a retrograde development, and we have to turn that around."

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