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Published 8 July 2021

Report on improving technology learning and career pathways released

A report that provides advice on improving teaching, learning and assessment of technology and hangarau within NCEA and the secondary—tertiary education system has been released today. It has been prepared by an expert advisory panel convened by Royal Society Te Apārangi.

It affirms that broad-based technology education aligns with the goals of Aotearoa New Zealand to be a nation of world-leading innovators and recommends changes to emphasise technological literacy rather than technical education.

Professor Alister Jones, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Waikato, who chaired the advisory panel said Aotearoa New Zealand has a world-leading curriculum in the Technology learning area. However, incremental changes have meant that the curriculum and senior school assessment have lost coherence around the big ideas and fundamental strands at the core of the technology learning area. The big ideas are: technological literacy as an enabler for people to live a dignified and successful life in the face of ever-changing technology; and multi-disciplinary, purposeful, innovative knowledge-rich practice.

“A discernible drift back to technical education has been inadvertently supported by an overall permissive NCEA assessment matrix that has allowed students to obtain the necessary credits without really achieving proficiency aligned to the big ideas of the curriculum.”

The panel noted that the potential benefits of the curriculum are realised when teachers have had sufficient professional development and support.

The report recommends a redevelopment of the assessment matrix to realign what students study to the Technology curriculum, allowing for a transitional period and suitable professional development to support teachers and schools adjust to this step-change.

It also recommends minimising the number of subjects in the technology learning area to no more than three at Levels 1, 2 and 3, to emphasise technological literacy.

The three proposed subjects with explanatory by-lines are:

  • Digital Technology: applying computational thinking and creating digital outcomes.
  • Design in Technology: exploring feasible spatial and product designs by modelling and drawing.
  • Development in Technology: making fit-for-purpose products, artefacts, devices or outcomes.

For each of the three subjects, the panel recommends the achievement standards cover the Nature of Technology, broad-based conceptual and procedural Technological Knowledge, and Technological Practice.

The panel also emphasised that technology learning needs to be firmly embedded in the cultural and social contexts of the nation, fully implementing the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Although relatively few in number, students studying hangarau need as much consideration as other technology students, the panel said.

Professor Jones said the drift to more specialised learning has been detrimental.  “Although well-intended, opportunities for specialisation and attempts to promote pathways for students have proven counter-productive. At worst, these have restricted rather than enabled learning journeys for some students.

“In reality, pathways are limited. There is one from design-rich technology study to tertiary study in the same field, and students studying digital technology at school are likely to progress to either engineering or information technology tertiary study. Students taking unit standards-based programmes at school are likely to progress to non-degree tertiary study, especially in engineering-rich domains.”

The panel considers a two-stream system in schools—academic and vocational—to be highly undesirable, as it can limit students. It supports broad-based Technology programmes which prepare students for a range of pathways from school to tertiary study.

Professor Jones said students who succeed in any technology programme obtain benefits. “It can be very motivating for students and give them the ability to solve problems and develop solutions. These are useful attributes for all students, no matter what career they go into.”

View more information on the Expert Advisory Panel. 

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi