Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a very odd comment in Parliament, effectively suggesting that teaching coding to all kids was tantamount to child labour. Today, he avoided that analogy, but he still wasn’t ready to commit to basic coding skills being taught to every student.
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Asked again during question time whether the government would back mandatory coding education, a policy Labour favours, Abbott said this:
The Opposition has been playing catch-up politics on this . . . this matter was fully dealt with by the government in the competitiveness and innovation agenda that we brought down last year. Coding is now on the curriculum at every level and it’s backed up by money which this government has committed.
Political sledging aside, there are three important points to be made here. Firstly, the fact that programming is “on the curriculum” is not the same as it being something everyone learns, which is what “mandatory” means. There’s a curriculum for Russian, but not many students learn it.
Secondly, despite those comments, the proposed IT curriculum is very far from locked in. It’s quite likely it won’t be decided on until December this year, and that means we wouldn’t see it in schools until 2017 at the earliest.
Thirdly, there’s a massive elephant in the room that will affect any plan to increase teaching of coding in our schools: where will qualified teachers be found?