A Nation of Curious Minds: Te Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara

On the 5th of July 2016, the then Education Minister, Heika Parata announced that “Digital technology is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa”. This was a very exciting announcement for many educators as it signalled a shift in the government’s thinking, formally encouraging the education sector to become more future focussed – an approach that many educators had already recognised was needed and had started to adopt.

Fast forward to July 2017 and over the last two days I have seen the Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye on two prominent weekend morning current affairs shows explaining the planned changes to the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

New Zealand is a digital nation. Digital technologies are transforming how we live  –  shaping our homes and our workplaces, and changing the way that we interact with each other and live our everyday lives. Our education system needs to change how we prepare our children and young people to participate, create and thrive in this fast-evolving digital world. As Heika Parata stated in 2016, “The information technology sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in New Zealand, with a demand for skilled graduates. This step will support young people to develop skills, confidence and interest in digital technologies and lead them to opportunities across the diverse and growing IT sector. We look forward to continuing to work with the IT sector to ensure we have a future-focused, world-leading education system.”

I understand the concerns some people have around the unknown effects of our children spending more time in front of a screen. However recently I attended a seminar with Tim Bell, a professor in Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury and he walked us through a range of exercises that taught computational thinking which required no screens.

Too often we hear from commentators in the media, and sadly from inside education, who haven’t read widely enough about the new curriculum and complain because it suits their political ideology. What we need is a more positive approach towards education in New Zealand where new changes in direction are judged on their merits rather than on which political party are advancing them.

One of the purposes of the new curriculum is to position New Zealand in a space where our students, the leaders of tomorrow, are in a space where they are the producers of technology rather than the consumers. As we continue towards this goal, the Digital Technologies curriculum will help transform a nation of curious minds in to a nation of creators and entrepreneurs. This is a future I can certainly look forward to!

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