A new structure for ICT education has been announced that will create a digital technologies curriculum stream and allow merit grades for exceptional students.
Formal recommendations made by a Digital Technologies Expert Panel (DTEP) for the future of ICT education in secondary schools represent the biggest change in ICT education for at least 20 years, says NZ Computer Society CEO Paul Matthews.
Under the DTEP recommendations, announced today and accepted by the Ministry of Education, digital technologies have been split out into a separate stream of the technology education programme which recognises their special nature.
Previously the Ministry and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority have been criticised, not least by the NZCS, for trying to define the teaching all technologies from woodwork to ICT on the same generic basis.
The new structure, while recognising that certain parts of the technology education programme have a common basis, has defined three more specialist streams: Digital technologies, graphics, and “material and processing”.
Specific subjects under the digital technologies programme include electronics and control, programming and computer science, digital information tools, digital media and hardware.
The Ministry’s manager of secondary outcomes, Tony Turnock, says he expects achievement standards for NCEA Level 1 to be available in draft form in July 2010 for use in schools in 2011. Standards for Levels 2 and 3 will be available in subsequent years. These will be supported with appropriate professional support materials such as teaching and learning guides.
First a coherent body of knowledge has to be defined for the subjects, a process which has been running for about two months, says Matthews, a member of the DTEP. When that is in first draft the Ministry will seek wider comment on it and finalise it as a basis for course material.
This will enable achievement standards to be created, allowing students not only to pass but in outstanding cases to obtain a merit grade, which will ease their path into tertiary education or employment, by conveying a more accurate idea of their abilities than a simple pass.
The lack of achievement standards in technology subjects was another major point of criticism in a report commissioned by the NZCS and delivered last May.
Even when courses have been developed, a budget is still needed to help teachers’ professional development, Matthews says, and there is some doubt whether significant money for this will be forthcoming in the government’s current cost-cutting mood.
“But I don’t want to detract from this major achievement,” Matthews says. It has been good to see the Society and through it the ICT industry and profession involved and contributing positively to the reforms, he says; “we’re not just seen as sniping from the sidelines any more.”