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Australia puts Digital Technologies curriculum in limbo pending review

First coding-for-kids plan was due to be signed off in December

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UPDATE The Australian Standing Council for School Education and Early Childhood, a body comprising the nation's education ministers, has shelved the nation's first Digital Technologies curriculum just weeks before it was due to be signed off.

The Register has been told that at a meeting on 29 November 2013, recorded in this communiqué "it was agreed ACARA had developed the curriculum according to the design specifications it has in place, it was not agreed to endorse the curriculum as final, given that the Australian Government is preparing to undertake a Review of the Australian Curriculum."

The Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has worked on the curriculum for over a year and had for several months advised the final version would emerge in December 2013.

The statement we've been sent suggests the document was all-but complete and awaited only ministerial sign off.

The Reg has tracked development of the new curriculum because it for the first time included a Digital Technologies stream that includes computational thinking and programming in the national curriculum covering Kindergarten to Year 10.

The curriculum's creation was called for by numerous industry groups and vendors as one way to create the generation of coding-capable kiddies that are apparently necessary to ensure Australia doesn't sink into an inescapable economic trough once the world loses interest in our iron ore and coal. As it burbled through various drafts, the curriculum has aspired to and included varying levels of computational thinking and even actual coding for all kids in High Schools. Agile development methodologies even made it into the planned lessons.

The curriculum has also attracted broad industry support: the likes of Google committed to creating resources to help teachers get up to speed with the new computational thinking material it included.

In October we were told that the new government was aware of support for the new curriculum's structure. Departmental spokespeople flagged the review of the national curriculum, but did not suggest the Technologies curriculum's sign-off would be impeded by that review.

Not many industry types are at their desks at this late stage of the year to offer reaction to the statement we've received from the Department, but The Reg imagines if they return the messages we've left they'll be most unhappy the final version of the curriculum has been shelved.

One that has returned a call, but would not go on the record, suggested the advice we've received from the Department of Education may be jumping the gun with its suggestion the curriculum has been shelved pending the formal Review. This source's view is that the Council meeting ran out of time to consider the final draft of the curriculum and will consider it at a future meeting in the new year.

Support for that theory can be found in the ACARA graphic below, which offers January 2014 as the delivery date.

ACARA's roadmap for the technologies curriculum

ACARA's new roadmap for the Technologies curriculum.
Big version available here

A counter-argument can be found in the communiqué, which mentions the technologies curriculum was discussed and again mentions the future review.

Vulture South believes the Digital Technologies stream of the Technologies curriculum has been placed in limbo pending the review.

How it emerges is anyone's guess. The most recent exposure draft watered down the technical content a little in response to teacher concerns, but still included lots of programming and computational thinking. Teachers we've spoken to remain concerned about the resources required to implement the curriculum.

With Australia's treasurer yesterday signalling a need for belt-tightening, those resources will be hard to find. On the other hand, Australia has recently been told major manufacturer General Motors will leave its shores, highlighting the need for development of different industries. ®

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