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NZTech: More emphasis on digital skills needed in NZ schools

The New Zealand government must put more focus on the introduction of the digital technology curriculum for schools, according to NZTech  chief executive Graeme Muller.

From January next year, all schools are required to implement the new curriculum content for all students in years one to 10.

However, Muller says a report released last August by the Education Review Office (ERO) showed that at the end of 2018, only seven percent of schools felt they would be ready to introduce the digital tech curricula in January 2020.

“I understand that this research has helped the Ministry of Education improve the targeting of the $38 million being invested in supporting teachers and principals to get ready to deliver the new digital tech curricula,” Muller says.

An August release by the ministry showed that their Digital Readiness Programme and comprehensive support options had so far supported more than 12,500 teachers to prepare.

“Given the scale of this change, many teachers and schools will obviously need ongoing assistance to develop the skills and confidence to teach digital technologies well into 2019,” Muller says.

“If not done well, in the coming years issues will compound as demand for digital skills continues to increase and we are unable to create a local workforce,” he explains.

“Not just the tech sector, but all sectors of the economy will suffer, if schools don’t successfully introduce digital skills.”

Muller says this is because New Zealand’s entire economy is becoming increasingly digital.

“And we are seeing most jobs start to require some level of digital understanding and capability,” he adds.

“It will also potentially exacerbate the growing digital divide, leaving parts of society disadvantaged and New Zealand’s modern workforce lacking diversity for years to come,” Muller says. 

“This will harm our country's future global competitiveness.”

NZTech is currently in the middle of a multi-city tour to develop a New Zealand digital technology sector industry transformation plan and gather feedback from throughout the country. 

“A critical element highlighted at every meeting so far has been the importance of education and its role in developing a digital workforce,” says Muller.

NZTech runs the annual Techweek event all around the country each May. 

“At Techweek 2019, hundreds of schools throughout New Zealand ran events to help expose their students and whanau to technology. We expect to see this expand further in 2020,” Muller explains.

He says the New Zealand education system is not evolving fast enough to generate local talent to support the growing digital economy.

“It is vital for all children to develop skills to prepare them for the jobs of the future,” says Muller.

“The tech sector creates many good jobs and stimulates the economy, but the sector is constantly challenged by skills shortages.

“We believe more priority and funding needs to be placed on helping schools and teachers right now so that Kiwi kids get the digital tech education they need and deserve,” he explains.