• Aussie schoolkids are now learning computer coding (SBS)
This year primary school kids nationwide have the option to learn computer coding. But tech industry experts are calling for coding lessons to become compulsory to ensure Australia is not left behind the digital age.
By
Julia Calixto

10 Mar 2015 - 1:10 PM  UPDATED 10 Mar 2015 - 3:45 PM

At Ravenswood Girl’s school in Sydney, year 6 students are learning how to build robots and program their every move.

Eleven-year-old Emma Denton says the subject was challenging at first, but now she's enjoying the work.

"It's like complicated Lego, and then you have to control it on the computer, and I love computers and it's so fun," she said.

Fellow student Justine Xue said they've programmed a series of commands, which they downloaded onto the robot cars they built.

"Now we are sort of testing the limits and sort of pushing the boundaries to see what we can do with them." Ms Xue said.

They're learning computational thinking - a way of problem solving by looking for patterns.

It's a necessary part of computer coding.

Staff at the school trialled the subject last year.

Deputy Principal, Terrie Jones, said it was so successful that they've decided to make it a permanent subject.

"The ultimate end goal, I guess, is to build a mind set in students that they are potential creators of technology, and manipulators of technology, rather than passive consumers of technology," Ms Jones said.

Schools around the world have begun to adapt as well.

Israel has trained 1,000 computer science teaching specialists.

Last year, Britain made coding a mandatory primary school subject.

But coding is not a mandatory subject in Australia.

Phil Lambert, from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) said it's the first time though, that coding has been included as an option in this year's digital technologies component.

"Finland, South Korea, the United Kingdom see this as a very important area of development of curriculum," Mr Lambert said.

President of the Australian Computing Society, Brenda Aynsley, says it's time schools took the skill more seriously.

"It's the fourth 'r' if you like, three 'r's' plus coding, or computational thinking. Coding's the best example of computational thinking - it's the easiest one," Ms Aynsley said.

Computer coding is a part of every industry from coffee shops to construction; for people who work online and in the field.

Businesses have been importing workers with IT and engineering skills for years.

According to the Department of Immigration's latest quarterly figures on skilled migration visas, a third of the top 15 occupations imported into Australia were from the IT industry.

Industry experts say one of the reasons for this is that the demand is not being met by university graduates.

IT enrolments have declined about 55 per cent in a decade.

Brenda Aynsley says there's also a dropout rate of about 20 per cent of those who enrol.

“Large companies, governments, are choosing to outsource their lower level IT work, which is where your graduates would typically usually start,” Ms Aynsley said.

She said it's important to expose children to coding early, to ensure Australians are not left behind in the digital era.