World Economic Forum report - STEM and Digital skills needed for Australian Students

By Michael Hilkemeijer

The World Economic Forum recently published a report that was prepared for the digital revolution. Focusing globally on the digital skills of students, the results put more ‘salt in the wounds’ of the educators of Australia. Last year, the National Assessment Program ICT literacy results for 2014 were released with a dim outlook for the digital skills of Australian students. Stating that despite the efforts of teachers in schools students’ ICT capability levels were decreasing. Once again global surveys have indicated a poor outlook for Australian students in terms of their ICT capability.

A total of 1000 Australians between the ages of 16-25 were surveyed in relation to their STEM prospects in jobs.

Whilst being amongst the most aware of the need to continuously learn new things through life Australian students were falling behind in their ability to stay relevant in a digital economy. Figures for coding, data science and mobile app development were amongst the lowest. Commenting on this, Matt Garbutt (chief of staff from Business Council of Australia) pointed out a very relevant and important point that “it is vital young people are equipped with a broad base of skills – both technical skills and cognitive skills such as communication and the ability to work in a team - to enable them to be flexible and resilient.”

It is imperative that teachers in schools understand that exposure to technology does not lead to high levels of student ICT capability. In order for this to occur, cognitive skills must be a key component of students’ learning when it comes to using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the classroom. Students must learn to develop technical skills and knowledge alongside their ability to use higher order conceptual skills. 

Research has also shown that effective professional ICT development is needed for teachers in order for them to begin the integration of ICT in their classrooms. The Australian Federal government have yet to realise that along with rolling out technology in the classrooms in Australia schools need funding to provide teachers with opportunities to attend these events. 

Teachers can also help in the formation of a digital economy by doing their part in the classroom to help students articulate their thoughts on the opportunities and constraints they experience with ICT. Encouragement by teachers in the use of ICT will also go a long way in developing students' confidence in ICT as well as helping them develop ICT capability for an ICT-integrated society.



World Economic Forum Digital Economy

The World and the Digital Economy

If the coronavirus pandemic has revealed anything about the future of the world economy, it is that technology and telecommunication connectivity are imperative to ensuring stability through uncertain times. Whether with regard to cloud storage, the Internet of things, the future of global trade or even education, technology has imprinted itself as the foundation for growth and development. Among the considerations going forward is the World economic forum digital economy which serves as the nexus to guide public and private stakeholders seeking to adapt to future changes. Below are some of the considerations from the forum relative to the future of the digital economy.

Of paramount concern relative to the new economic normal the digital economy presents is the accessibility and compatibility of the interface with users. At present, only 53% of the world's population has sufficient internet access to benefit from the digital economy. Limitations inaccessibility and functionality significantly hamper the growth of local economies, integration with the world economy and flexibility relative to economic variations, such as the coronavirus pandemic. In order to resolve this issue, the World Economic Forum has promoted vastly expanding networks and accessibility to ensure that more users have a sufficient digital identity through which to contribute and benefit from the digital economy. A sound digital identity greatly enhances access to a variety of services, including telemedicine, the gig economy, digital banking, and the digital supply chain. Access to these services, among others, allows a greater distribution of the advancements through the digital economy previously accessible to those with sufficient access.

At the core of improving accessibility is improving education relative to information and communications technology, or ICT. ICT is at the core of the digital economy and developments in just about every field, from improving the agricultural and food service sector, to increasing sustainability and improving material recyclability, to improving civic participation and social justice endeavors. These endeavors, among many others, will continue to develop from continued growth and investment. However, just as critical to sustaining these endeavors is ensuring that participants, as well as future developers, are well-versed in their technological foundation. Various measures, such as improving technological literacy in early childhood education as well as creating tailored programs to educate children and users on the various skills inherent to the digital economy are critical to ensuring that future generations will be prepared for the economy of the future.

As 2020 demonstrated, the world is constantly changing and the economy will always change to keep up with demand while seeking greater efficiency. Beyond greater efficiency, greater accessibility to services and products as well as the greater distribution of these products and services serve as benchmarks for future economic progress. These developments, among many others, are the basis of the World Economic Forum's digital economy. With greater investment in the digital economy and greater investment in ICT education that integrates with developments in the digital economy, the future of the world and economic stability will be better served through the benefits of digital connectivity.