Tasmanian primary schools to roll out coding curriculum

Tasmania will be the first state to introduce a coding curriculum to the primary school classroom as part of a new partnership between Code Club Australia and the Tasmanian government.

Students will soon no longer have to wait until they hit university or late secondary school before they learn how to code -- that is, if they haven't already tried teaching themselves.

As part of a new partnership between Code Club Australia and the Tasmanian government, coding will soon form part of the primary school curriculum across Tasmania.

With funding from the Telstra Foundation, Code Club Australia will initially provide free training for one nominated representative from each of the 150 public and private primary schools in the state in delivering a coding curriculum to classrooms this year.

The curriculum will involve two terms of teaching -- HTML and CSS, before students learn Python -- using Scratch, a free open-source learning program that was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Code Club Australia national program manager Kelly Tagalan said the idea behind the training is to help create leaders within schools, and the knowledge that each trained teacher gains would be shared with other colleagues.

She added that coding can be integrated into any subject that children are learning in today's classrooms.

"There are unlimited computational education opportunities. For example, when learning arts and history, there are cultural stories that we could be replicated and represented using coding; we can relate coding to anything we do in school because it's a blank slate. We're very excited to give this opportunity for teachers," she said.

The partnership mirrors Telstra chair and Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone's recent call to introduce computational thinking and problem solving to children as young as four years old.

Livingstone said at the time that introducing the digital literacy to children at a young age could potentially solve structural youth unemployment.

"Universities are crying out, they can't get enough students entering the IT streams," she said.

"We'll never have enough students if they don't take the secondary courses; they won't take the secondary courses unless they take the primary courses; and they won't succeed at the primary courses unless we start right from the beginning."

While Tasmania will be the first state in Australia to have all of its schools adopt a coding curriculum, 75 other venues across Australia are also registered with Code Club Australia, including schools, libraries, and other community hubs.

According to Tagalan, the initial responses of the curriculum have been well received by both students and teachers.

"Educators report an increase of performance and self esteem in their students who are enrolled in Code Club. They report that kids attending regularly bring back an enthusiasm for technology in learning, a collaborative learning spirit, and rise as leaders in STEM and other school subjects as a result," she said.

"Teachers report that kids attending Code Club regularly often perform strongly in STEM and other subjects such as reading, because it increases their ability to think using computational thinking."

Tagalan said she hopes to be able to see the curriculum eventually rolled out nationally, but that it's currently a work in progress with the federal government.

Originally founded in the UK, the Code Club World network now counts more than 2,700 clubs that have helped teach 40,000 children how to code, in countries as diverse as Brazil, Ukraine, Norway, and Hong Kong.