Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Education and Skills
Computational thinking and coding, and their place in the primary curriculum has been a key topic for education debate in recent times and, in particular, following the then Minister’s request in July 2016 to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (the NCCA) to consider approaches to integrating coding into the primary curriculum and to embedding computational thinking in the mathematics curriculum.
In response to the request, the NCCA undertook research which included the completion of a desktop audit of curriculum policy related to coding in 22 international jurisdictions. Informed by the outcomes of that audit, the Council selected five jurisdictions for a more in-depth curriculum investigation. A review of literature on computational thinking was also completed. These research reports are available at www.ncca.ie/en/primary/primary-developments/coding-in-primary-schools.
The research informed the design of the Coding in Primary Schools Initiativewhich began in 2017. Phase 1 of the initiative involved working with 15 primary schools which had invested significant time and financial resources alongside building staff expertise in the area of coding and computational thinking. The NCCA’s work focused on gathering information from the schools about their work with coding. These ‘classroom stories’ help to answer questions such as, what types of coding experiences are teachers currently providing? Where in the primary curriculum is this work happening? Which classes are involved? Why did the teacher/school start work on coding? What are the benefits and challenges?
Examples from this work are also published at www.ncca.ie/en/primary/primary-developments/coding-in-primary-schoolsand have informed the development of materials to support other schools in introducing coding and computational thinking as part of Phase 2 in the initiative. This second phase began in May 2018 and involves 25 additional schools which, prior to the initiative, had little, if any, experience with coding. The purpose of Phase 2 is to explore how, where and to what extent coding and computational thinking should be integrated into a redeveloped primary curriculum. The initiative will conclude in the coming weeks and a report will be finalised and submitted to me for consideration.
The Deputy may be interested to know that at Post-Primary level an optional short course in Coding is available to all schools as part of the recent developments at junior cycle and coding is also a central element in the new Leaving Certificate Computer Science subject introduced in schools since last September. Computational thinking also features very significantly in revised specifications for Mathematics at both junior cycle and senior cycle levels. It is important to note that extensive reviews of both the primary curriculum and senior cycle education are currently underway and these too will consider the role and place of coding in the curriculum.