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NZ's education sector must move fast to support edtech

10 Jun 2019
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New Zealand’s education sector needs to face up to automation and the way it will affect people’s jobs in years to come – and it needs to move quickly to do so, according to industry body EdTechNZ.

In a submission to the New Zealand Productivity Commission on the topic of how technology will impact the future of work in New Zealand, EdTechNZ says that New Zealand’s education sector needs a serious shake up.

According to EdTechNZ chair Shane Kerr, New Zealand’s education and skills system does not have a shared view of current or desirable outcomes for New Zealand’s digitally dependent society.

“Consideration should be given to how the skill needs of the tech industry can be better understood by the education sector, perhaps through an industry body forum,” says Kerr.

“Future workers will need advanced technical skills to operate in an increasingly digital working environment but also skills for the roles that cannot be easily automated.”

EdTechNZ says it has witnessed the impact that automation technologies are having on people’s jobs.

“Workers now and in the future will need an education system that can keep up with the pace of global technical change,” says Kerr. 

“We’re already seeing firms and companies question the validity of traditional courses of study as their industries undergo rapid transformation.

“It is imperative that the 20% of adults described in the commission’s report with low levels of literacy and/or numeracy are provided with effective access to tools and training that can lift their capability.”

He says the Commission should consider the World Economic Forum’s 21st century skills concept, which includes collaboration, critical thinking, digital literacy, and problem solving.

“There are a number of edtech products and pedagogies that can be further deployed in this area, and the edtech sector could be more effectively incentivised to address this priority.”

He adds that the education sector is struggling to keep up with workplace change. The education sector is often held back by difficulty innovating and scaling new initiatives quickly enough.

“In addition, due to the relatively large numbers of small to medium companies, employers are less likely to plan for or invest in future skills at the expense of the immediate needs and daily pressures of their business,” Kerr says.

The mismatches between capability and expectation will only grow, Kerr adds.

“Not all firms do or will have the same understanding of the skill challenges or make the same level of investment in training beyond their immediate needs.

“Government has a role to raise awareness and urgency of the issue and also encourage the development of training for future skills needs which may not be readily apparent to the employer such as digital literacy. Government investment is required in every scenario.”