Govern­ment plays dig­i­tal catch-up

Marlborough Express - - COMMENT&OPINION -

again by in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als for not mak­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy a sub­ject in its own right but keep­ing it within the broader tech­nol­ogy area.

That back story may ex­plain why rel­a­tively new Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Nikki Kaye has made a big noise about find­ing $40 mil­lion to put to­wards re­vamp­ing teach­ers for the ‘‘dig­i­tal cur­ricu­lum’’. But if it is a re­ver­sal from last year’s po­si­tion, as IT Pro­fes­sion­als New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Matthews told RNZ, then it is a wel­come one. He goes fur­ther and calls it a much-needed, once-ina-decade over­haul.

Older read­ers may find them­selves lost in a for­est of ne­ol­o­gisms and nerd-speak at this point, but the Govern­ment’s ‘‘Strength­en­ing Dig­i­tal Tech­nolo­gies Han­ga­rau Mati­hiko in the Cur­ricu­lum’’ con­sul­ta­tion pa­per is de­signed to pro­duce re­booted New Zealand stu­dents as soon as 2018. The $40m to be spent on up­grad­ing teach­ers was an­nounced along­side a wider tech­nol­ogy pack­age.

The back­drop is the dreaded ‘‘fu­ture of work’’ which the Govern­ment has mostly avoided dis­cussing in much depth. But as Kaye ex­plains, draw­ing on an Aus­tralian re­port, around 40 per cent of cur­rent jobs are at high risk of au­to­ma­tion over the next 10 to 15 years, and this trend could also ap­ply to New Zealand.

‘‘This means to­mor­row’s busi­ness lead­ers, sci­en­tists, engi­neers, farm­ers, ur­ban plan­ners, health pro­fes­sion­als and even artists will all ben­e­fit from knowl­edge and skills re­lat­ing to soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, dig­i­tal me­dia con­tent and tech­nol­ogy de­sign,’’ Kaye says in the me­dia re­lease.

True enough. Pre­dict­ing the fu­ture is a mug’s game but there is gen­eral agree­ment that au­to­ma­tion will take more than man­ual jobs out of the econ­omy. Mid­dle-class pro­fes­sion­als are also threat­ened. The fu­ture worker needs tech­nol­ogy skills and flex­i­bil­ity and should also ex­pect to re­train sev­eral times in one life­time.

But the dream also has to en­gage with the present-day re­al­ity. Will $40m be enough to up­skill all teach­ers across the 10 years of learn­ing that Kaye has talked about? The Prin­ci­pals Fed­er­a­tion ar­gues that only 4000 of the coun­try’s 100,000 teach­ers cur­rently have the skills to put the vi­sion into prac­tice. Even with­out us­ing a cal­cu­la­tor or any other new-fan­gled de­vice, we can tell that means only 4 per cent of New Zealand teach­ers are ready to face the fu­ture that Kaye says is com­ing as early as next year.

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