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Ian McCrae: New Zealand poised to teach tech to teens

Divina Paredes | July 13, 2016
Orion Health’s CEO says our ICT sector wants to help deliver in secondary schools, but the Ministry of Education needs to join the party.

The UK and other countries have already overhauled their systems and are teaching digital technology in primary and secondary schools, he says.

"We have been in consultation with the Ministry of Education now for almost a decade."

"There were many other excellent recommendations made during the 12-month review in 2015," he says.

"It begs the question: how much consultation do we have to have?"

Orion Health Outreach coordinator Ruth James works with Adamya Manchanda at Code Club.

Orion Health Outreach coordinator Ruth James works with Adamya Manchanda at Code Club.

"What we simply want is for digital technology to be separated from metalwork, woodwork, sewing and cookery," he states.

"We wanted a major change to the curriculum so that it actually taught secondary school students how to code, rather than how to create a PowerPoint presentation.

"If you leave it in the vocational area, it will continue to share resources with vocational subjects.

"There is a lot of course content that is shared across all of them, and it is very generic stuff, like 'describe the goals of your project'. What that means is digital technology is considered non-academic."

"It needs to be taught as an academic subject, in a separate learning area just like maths and science. And it needs to be properly funded."

"To teach digital technology properly, the government has to invest additional money for those courses," McCrae says. "From what we can tell there is no significant money set aside to do that."

"If you are lucky enough to go to a school that teaches the Cambridge Curriculum, it has a very good set of papers and standards [for digital technology]."

"I am sure there are other syllabus that are equally good," he says.

"What is hard for some of us to understand is why can't the NCEA [The National Certificate of Educational Achievement, the main national qualification for secondary school students] offer something similar?"

"That is what needs to happen, and it needs to happen relatively soon, not in another 10 years time," he says.

The technology sector can move quickly, he says, but as each year passes, another group of children will miss out.

McCrae says that Orion and other software companies "are staffed by many good people from overseas, but we also want our own students to have that opportunity."

McCrae says reports estimate New Zealand schools produce 1,500 ICT students every year, well-short of the industry demand for 3,000 a year.

"We are starting at 50 per cent of the supply needed."

"You should be looking at this as a great career opportunity. The jobs are very well paid," he says.


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