Government plays digital catch-up
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.