Seriously I cannot believe it’s four weeks to go to Christmas. This past year has seen me visiting the local hospital more times than I wish to remember with family. Fortunately all’s well now.
On 27 December I embark on an epic journey. The last time I saw my brothers and sisters in the UK was in 2004, it was a hurried trip and my son Ben (then 23 yrs old) was also there, then onto Spain.
This coming trip means I re-engage after eleven years. Ours is a large family, five brothers and three sisters in the UK and two sisters in Brisbane. I am the eldest. Apart from meeting up with my various nieces and nephews (some of whom I have never seen) and their children who will be grandchildren, it will be a time to share my own son’s journey with them.
London is like a second home to me, I lived and worked there from 1962 – 1979, the end of the swinging sixties and the very beginning of the word ‘unemployment’ ! Always on flying into Heathrow I get emotional. Lots of memories, it was a mainly happy and very exciting time.
Enroute I will be spending time in Hong Kong – Kowloon and enjoying the vibrant harbour and skyscraper sunsets. Big cities fascinate me but now as I get older, I don’t want to live in them. Life is too frantic and people communicate more with technology that they do with each other.
Headlines of Impact
Which brings me to my second blog topic – Teaching kids the language of the future (Inquirer, Weekend Australian, Nov 7-8, 2015, correspondent Natasha Bita). “Toddlers click together wooden blocks embedded with computer chips to drive a toy cart.” This is happening in daycare centres. The new national curriculum starting in 2016, will see coding introduced at primary school level. This training is the language of the future between computers. Programming is coding … the Australian economy is transitioning from mining to mind industries.
“In the knowledge economy, children need to learn how to think” says Kate Highfield, a lecturer at Macquarie University’s Institute of Early Childhood…”only 1% of apps on the market are ‘open-ended’ meaning they enable children to think for themselves and fail or find solutions.” Without programming/coding skills young people will have difficulty getting employed. Australia currently relies on 10,000 foreign ICT jobs (per year).
GE (the industrial giant previously in electrical manufacturing), now employs 15,000 software engineers. It supplies fibre optics, photonics (whatever that is !!) for chips, bioscience and data crunching. The company has developed a “Coding for Kids’ course for Australian primary students. “STEM subjects can’t wait until High School,” says GE’s chief information officer Mark Sheppard. Programmable devices like Bee-bot robot and Scratch are recommended for early stage learning. Coding has its own nouns, verbs, adjectives and sentences. Kids who code..
Australia will need 100,000 more workers with informatino and communications technology skills over the next five yars (Deloitte Access Economics). Coding is on its way and parents have to get with the program !
Education and Employment – Meanwhile in the Australian Financial Review (Tues 17 Nov, 2015), reporter Tim Dodd revealed NAP tests results this month “found only 55% of Yr 6 students knew how to search a website, format a document, crop an image or produce a short slide show.” OK, I could show my child how to do these tasks. But then we go to Yr 10 students – only 52% were able to – design an online survey – use software to add new levels to an online game and create animation.
WOW – now I would be lost. Rob Randall whose organisation runs NAPLAN said the poor results highlighted “the need for explicit, purposeful teaching in ICT.” Next stop for me – local social media guru …. interested ? check on the Internet.
And in the midst of my epic journey I am off to Ireland, the primary European hub for American tech companies who apparently now ‘rule the web economy’ (Wall Street Journal). Three hundred multinational tech companies have their European headquarters in Ireland including Facebook and Google. They employ 60,000 people and account for more than 5% o Ireland’s GDP. Ireland – one more thing. If you are Irish you can gain a University education in Ireland for free ! They’re not silly, are they?
Ireland is my maternal and paternal great grandparents ancestral home and I shall be heading to Cahersiveen in Country Kerry and walking the rugged coastlines – it will be cold but oh so beautiful.
Lastly lets not deregulate universities so they can set their own fees. Our own PM describes Australia’s vocational education and training system as “a shambles”, with 4609 registered training colleges. One in ten have had their registration refused, cancelled or suspended by the Australian Skills Quality Authority. Private colleges have been selling courses to students who have no intention or ability to complet. These students enrol, the college receives their full tuition fees paid up front by the Federal Government and students can borrow as much as $97,726. Colleges have inflated the cost of courses – an information technology diploma has soared from $2770 in 2011 to $18,735 this year and average tuition fees have tripled from $4814 to $12,308. The VET funded courses don’t even need to be linked to a University qualification any longer. The sooner the Federal government moves to legislate against this exploitation the better.
Till next time.
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Sources: “Kids love social media but lack skills” Tim Dodd, News – Australian Financial Review, Tuesday 17 November 2015:3; “Tech giants rule web economy” Don Clark & Robert McMillan & ‘Ireland defends its internet crown’ Sam Schechner Web Summit – Dublin, The Wall Street Journal & The Weekend Australian, Nov 7-8, 2015: 34; “Teaching kids the language of the future”, Natasha Bita – Inquirer, The Weekend Australian 7-8 Nov, 2015:22. Image source: Huff Post, Parents UK, 25 Nov 2015., alamy.jpg.