Kids need better tech education to thrive in a digital world

09 Jul 2024

Teachers are struggling to equip Australian school kids with the digital skills they need for the future, warns a new report from The Australian National University (ANU) Tech Policy Design Centre and the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

The report, Tech skills for the next generation, provides the most comprehensive snapshot of how Australian teachers are implementing the Digital Technologies Curriculum in schools.


The report argues that as emerging technology continually shifts how we connect and do business, all Australians – not just technology professionals – need digital skills for full participation in society and the economy.


Based on a national survey of teachers and input from experts across the education sector, the new report found over two thirds of teachers who responded are struggling to implement the existing Digital Technologies Curriculum.

Only one quarter of respondents reported having enough support to address these challenges. The result is low student engagement in the classroom and fewer students pursuing technology careers.


The report also flagged that the number of Year 11 and 12 students studying technology subjects has fallen in recent years.


“Tech is already embedded in every aspect of our lives – and this will only be more so for future generations. We need to stop teaching tech like it is a bolt-on and start treating it as fundamental, like English and Maths,” Professor Johanna Weaver, Founding Director of the ANU Tech Policy Design Centre (TPDC), said.


“The good news is there are policy levers that the federal and state governments can pull today to better support teachers. Without this support, we risk widening the digital divide and creating a society where the next generation of Australians are not equipped to navigate the increasingly complex digital world.”


The report argues better support for teachers will help Australia meet future technology workforce demands and prepare all young Australians with the skills to adapt to new technologies in the increasingly complex digital economy.


“It is critical that we prioritise educating our next gen in digital literacy and digital technologies and support the teachers because it is the best way to prepare these young people for the world that lies ahead,” Sharon Singh, Chair of ACS’ ICT Educators Committee, said.


“Engaging them in digital technologies and empowering them as early as possible and throughout their school education can also lead to more Australians pursuing further education in technology fields and into a technology-focused career.”


Professor Weaver said: “Most existing tech skills initiatives focus on current and immediate term skills gaps. But if we don’t simultaneously take the long-term view recommended in this report, we risk generationally embedding tech skills shortages in Australia.


“More broadly, new and potentially disruptive technologies become available every day and we want all Australians to understand the safety, privacy, and security implications, and be empowered to harness the best of technology to shape a positive future.


ACS Chief Executive Josh Griggs said: “ACS has been delighted to work with ANU on Tech skills for the next generation detailing the state of Australia’s digital technology education in Australia.

“Given the importance of students’ digital skills, this report gives policymakers and educators direction on effectively delivering the current curriculum and how we can continuously improve. We look forward to working with all education groups and agencies in ensuring our kids have the skills to thrive in the digital economy.”


Find out more about the research in the report Tech skills for the next generation at the TPDC website.