ACS has released a comprehensive new report on the state of Digital Technologies education in Australia, urging for more ICT-qualified teachers in the classroom.

The report, Computer education in Australian schools 2022: Enabling the next generation of IT professionals is based around a national survey of schools performed by ACS in 2021, and focuses on the implementation and uptake of the new Digital Technologies curriculum.

“It’s no secret that Australia has a significant deficit when it comes to ICT professionals,” said ACS President Dr Nick Tate.

“Every year for the next five years, businesses and government will be demanding more than 50,000 new IT professionals,” Dr Tate noted.

“In 2019, there were less than 7,000 ICT graduates from Australian universities, not nearly enough to meet the needs. We cannot continue to rely on overseas workers to make up the shortfall.”

A key pillar in the plan to encourage more students to pursue careers in technology was the creation of the Digital Technologies curriculum in 2014, which has been progressively (but inconsistently) rolled out across the states since.

The report focuses on the development of Digital Technologies, noting that the design of the curriculum is excellent, but there are still problems implementing it.

A key issue revealed in the report is a lack of training for teachers, particularly in primary school years.

“In primary years, Digital Technologies represents an entirely new set of content that most teachers have not experienced in their own education or teacher preparation,” the report notes.

“In secondary education, Digital Technologies was a dramatic shift from teaching ICT applications to teaching computer science, many junior secondary computing teachers having only rudimentary, self-taught programming skills and no information systems or query language experience.”

The result, according to the report, is that the implementation of the curriculum has been spotty, and there is often confusion between Digital Literacy (the basic skills of using computers, such as using a word processor or a tablet) and Digital Technologies (using computers to create and design).

In its 55 recommendations, the report notes a number of other issues that need to be addressed, including:

- the need to have at least one teacher in every primary school having formal qualification in the teaching of Digital Technologies; and all secondary computer education teachers having at least some formal training in a programming language

- a requirement that states develop appropriate and systematic professional learning support programs to upskill all teachers

- that there needs to be far better communication with parents about the curriculum and student outcomes

- that industry and universities need to work far better with schools, to both provide support and help direct learning into productive areas

- that significant work needs to be done to address inequality of access to equipment and trained teachers.

ACS has already engaged with government on funding issues, proposing a $100 million teacher training program for Digital Technologies as part of its 2022 Election Platform.

“There is no single silver bullet that will turn Australia into a global leader in Digital Technologies education. But we believe that it’s worth putting everything we can into it,” noted Dr Tate in the report foreword.

The full report can be downloaded from the ACS website here.