Large numbers of high school staff teaching ICT are not formally qualified, which may have contributed to the drop in students studying technology courses at universities and colleges over the past 12 years.
This is the view of the Australian Council of Deans of ICT (ACDICT), which found that almost two-thirds (60 per cent) of ICT teachers in Australia for students from years 7 to 10 are not formally qualified in ICT. Almost half (48 per cent) of ICT teachers for Years 11 to 12 are also not qualified in the subject.
ACDICT said the lack of teachers qualified in ICT is “likely to be a significant factor in the declining enrolments in ICT in higher education over the past dozen years”.
“We need action on several fronts to improve the situation,” said President of ACDICT, Professor Leon Sterling. “ACDICT is working with other stakeholders, such as the CSIRO and NICTA to increase the participation of industry and academia in schools such as in the mentoring of teachers to help with any ICT skills gaps and provide the students with interesting projects.”
Read: Budget 2014 – Education changes, research cuts a concern for ICT sector.
Yvette Adams, founder of The Creative Collective and 2013 ICT Woman of the Year, told CIO Australia that the lack of formal IT qualification is not so much of a concern as is the lack of IT skills.
“Even if you do gain an IT qualification, it is more than likely that what you learnt is out of date from the moment you step out of the tertiary institution, and even then I wonder how up to date the content is that our students are being taught in regards to ICT,” she said.
Another issue, Adams pointed out is that the high school curricula for ICT may not be able to keep up with the speed at which technology is changing.
“I think the solution therefore is about more closely aligning with industry. Either get industry leaders coming into the classroom or lecture halls as guest lecturers, and get them involved in reviewing/advising on what is being taught to ensure it is up to date and industry relevant,” she said.
Australian Computer Society CEO Alan Patterson said the government needs to provide some form of ongoing training to support ICT teachers, in addition to implementing an updated curriculum with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).
“It is simply not good enough to train a teacher now and presume they will be fine for the next five years. As the syllabus evolves, training must be provided to ensure educators remain at the forefront of emerging technology,” he said.
“The ACS agrees with ACDICT that there is a lack of suitably qualified ICT teachers in secondary schools. Without suitably qualified teachers, effectively executing the curriculum becomes difficult, and this ultimately leads to a fall in the quality of technology education in our schools.”
Adams added that with “digital literacy being the new financial literacy”, it’s important to invest in ICT high school education.
“ICT underpins every single industry and with these skills, you are giving yourself many options in terms of higher employment prospects, the ability to contribute to an organisation or lead an organisation or start a business,” she said.