Saturday 24 March 2018

The new class your primary school child could be adding to their timetable

New plan: Education Minister Richard Bruton Photo: Tony Gavin
New plan: Education Minister Richard Bruton Photo: Tony Gavin
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Primary school pupils will soon be getting lessons in the basics of how to write computer programs.

Education Minister Richard Bruton has asked the Government's curriculum advisers, the NCCA, to consider ways of integrating coding into the primary curriculum.

Coding is regarded as an essential skill for the modern world, with digital literacy now as important as proficiency in reading, writing and maths.

Computer programming has not featured at either primary or post-primary level in Ireland - which is regarded as a factor in the high drop-out rates from college computing courses.

Outside school, Irish children have shown an enthusiasm for coding, including at the CoderDojo network of clubs.

From September, coding is being introduced for students in some secondary schools as part of wider Junior Cycle reform and its uptake will spread rapidly as more teachers are trained.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has also recently been given the go-ahead to start work on Computer Science as a Leaving Certificate subject.

Now Mr Bruton has written to NCCA chief executive Dr Anne Looney asking that they examine approaches to bringing coding into primary schools.

He wants it considered as part of a review of the primary curriculum, and the development of a new maths curriculum for junior infants to second classes, currently under way.

The draft new maths curriculum is expected to be ready next spring, but it would be September 2018 at the earliest before the first coding lessons take place in primary schools.

One of the issues that have arisen is where to find time in an overcrowded curriculum.

In his letter to Dr Looney, the minister said he wanted to ensure that every child had an opportunity to develop computational, flexible and creative thinking skills.

"I am acutely conscious that we need to give all children the best start in a world where such skills will be key to participation and success" he stated.

Dublin City University president Professor Brian MacCraith welcomed the focus on "the intersection of digital technology with critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving".

Prof MacCraith said projects such as CoderDojo had shown the "amazing potential of young children in this convergent space".

Irish Independent

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