Examining ‘digital disruption’ as problem and purpose in Australian education policy

Shane B Duggan


Young people’s relationship to the digital economy is a key site of popular and policy attention within the context of shifts in labour market conditions globally. The massification of digital media and rapid growth of digital markets globally have brought significant challenges for policy makers in what counts as work, and how best to prepare young people to engage with it. This has manifest in a proliferation of initiatives and policy orientations across much of the global north which have tended to focus on the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics occupations, and in particular, computing aimed at preparing young people for ‘jobs of the future’. The formalisation of learn to code programs in school curriculum has been one such initiative. Despite the proliferation of coding and computational thinking curriculum across many countries, there remains a relative paucity of scholarship examining their embedding in educational policy debates. This article follows the announcement of ‘coding in schools’ policy in Australia since its formal announcement by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in his Budget Reply speech in May 2015. The announcement followed similar moves in other countries and has cemented ‘coding in schools’ as a literacy of ‘the future’ in the Australian political landscape. This article suggests that while a policy focus on technical and instrumental skills such as computer coding may help young people to interact with dominant technologies of the present, they also risk weakening a more substantive conversation around educational participation and purpose in the present, and for the future.


coding; digital transformation; education policy; hansard; STEM

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