We live in exciting times, with digital technologies advancing at an incredible rate and playing an increasing role in every aspect of our lives.

Robotics, artificial intelligence and advances in connectivity are all revolutionising our businesses, our industries, our communities, our world.

A few decades ago, ICT was only used in specialised jobs. Now it’s an integral part of all work places.

This means digital fluency is now an essential life skill for our young people.

To participate successfully in society and get the jobs and careers they want, young New Zealanders growing up today will need to be confident using a broad range of digital technologies, in a variety of settings. But being digitally fluent isn’t just about being able to use technology effectively. It’s also about developing skills such as computational and algorithmic thinking, so you can become an innovative creator of digital technologies.

Recently we took a major step towards the future when I launched consultation on new draft digital technologies content for The New Zealand Curriculum.

This is the biggest change to our curriculum in a decade. It builds on work already done, such as our investment of $700 million towards digital infrastructure in schools, including cabling and wireless technology, as well as the Network for Learning (N4L) Managed Network, which provides schools with Crown-funded, uncapped, high-speed broadband.

We’ve also made digital fluency one of five priority areas in teachers’ professional learning and development, and set up a $1 million contestable fund to support innovative learning projects involving digital technologies.

A major benefit of the Managed Network is that schools no longer have to meet their own internet connection and data costs. Schools can choose to use these savings to supplement the operations grant funding they receive for IT costs, such as buying hardware and software.

The aim of the new curriculum is that within two years, all children from years one to 10 will be engaged in new digital technologies learning. Students choosing digital technologies pathways for NCEA will develop the more specialised skills that industry partners say are in high demand, through new achievement standards being developed for NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3.

The new curriculum is groundbreaking. It offers unique Māori content, learning that can be shaped to students’ individual needs, and it’s also future-proofed, so it can adapt to new technology as it emerges.

To support its introduction, we will invest $40 million over the next three years to help upskill our teachers, support a seamless shift of our education system to a digital environment, and provide more opportunities for young people to learn about digital technologies.

Up to 40,000 teachers will receive tailored professional development and attend workshops to get up to speed. We’ll also set up professional networks, comprising digital experts such as educators, academics and IT industry professionals, to support teachers and help schools be at the forefront of new technologies.

We’ll support more teaching and learning in a digital format, by funding specialised online learning to supplement learning in the classroom, new resources such as streaming content and apps, and further trialling of online NCEA exams.

And we will fund initiatives such as youth scholarships, a National Digital Championship and a Digital Technology For All Equity Fund, to inspire students to think digitally when coming up with ideas and solving challenges, and ensure that more students, regardless of their backgrounds, can access digitally rich learning opportunities.

This investment means our young people will gain skills that will help prepare them for life-long success. It’s an exciting development for our education system, our economy and the future of New Zealand.

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