Parata's expanded digital technology in schools initiative gets failing grade from IT leaders

It's a shocker. With special feature audio.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has formally integrated "digital technology" into the mainstream curriculum.

Formerly it was a senior secondary subject only. Now it will be expanded all the way down to Year 1 in all schools (some have already voluntarily expanded their efforts).

Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae, who lobbied hard for change, gives Ms Parata a failing grade.

“It is disappointing to have waited so long for so little," he says.

"After six years of waiting, a 12-month review process, and seven months of deliberation by Hekia Parata and her ministry, all there is to show for it are some minor changes, including a pledge for more consultation."

McCrae, whose Auckland-based software company employs 1200 staff, says universities are not producing enough ICT grads – forcing him to recruit offshore.

The Orion boss maintains the root of the problem is at secondary school, where students are not being inspired to take up technology – in part because it is not positioned as a high-earning, exciting income opportunity but as a trade.

“What the tech industry asked for is digital technology to be separated from woodwork, metalwork, cookery and sewing and to become a separate learning area. That hasn’t happened.”

Institute of IT Professionals chief executive Paul Matthews says he's also disappointed that digital technology has not managed to move up the secondary school curriculum food chain.

“It’s like telling a subject as essential as maths that they have to be a part of PE," he says.

Mr Matthews says he was also hoping for significant personal development funding to train those who teach digital technology or are about to take it on. But that has failed to eventuate. 

Looking for leadership
The tech industry was also disappointed at the lack of real funding in this area, and the time lost over several years, Mr Matthews says.

“The changes announced are something that should have been implemented from the start,” the chief executive says.

“The tech industry was looking for leadership, not two years of meetings and reviews. More urgency is needed if the government is serious about positioning New Zealand for the real economic growth our industry can bring.”

High-tech is now New Zealand's third-largest export sector after dairy and tourism.

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