Christopher Pyne: Everyone’s ready?
Katrina Falkner: Well thank you for coming today. We’d very much like to welcome Mr Pyne and Mr Birmingham for coming and helping us announce the fantastic funding initiative that they are supporting us with. Over the past 18 months we’ve been running an open, free online course for teachers, for primary school teachers across Australia to help them prepare for the new digital technologies curriculum, which is going to be critical for innovation in Australia. We’ve had about 5000 teachers through the course so far, which has been fantastic, but what we’ve found is that teachers really are able to cope well when they have a face to face community to help them go through the course materials.
And that’s what this program is going to help us achieve. It will help us build communities for teachers to be able to learn computer science, to learn computational thinking, and will also help us establish a lending library of state-of-the art digital technologies that we can basically lend out to every school in Australia, which means that any school is able to access the best technology to educate our students.
Christopher Pyne: Excellent.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Katrina, and thanks so much for having us along here today. This really is a great example of the Federal Government seeking to back innovation at the University of Adelaide to enhance innovation right across Australia’s school system. Because what we’re doing today is committing $6.9 million out of the National Innovation and Science Agenda to help the University of Adelaide expand this open access program, this MOOC to access more teachers, so that ultimately more than 20,000 teachers will be assisted in developing their information technology capabilities and developing their skills to be able to better inspire and teach students in terms of technology and innovation right around Australia.
And this really is about long term investment, because we know that by enhancing the skills of teachers today, we will have more capable students tomorrow, who are more likely to come to great institutions like the University of Adelaide to study technology or science or engineering, and to build the more innovative and capable nation we aspire to in the future. So I really want to congratulate the University of Adelaide for the initiative and innovation that they have shown in relation to developing this, and indeed for the work that they’re now going to do to help ensure that thousands more Australian teachers have a far better capacity to teach technology, to inspire children to learn science and for them to be able to go on and be our scientific and technology innovators in the future. Christopher?
Christopher Pyne: Well thank you Simon, and thank you for allowing me to be part of this launch today, and congratulations to the University of Adelaide for attracting $6.9 million of funding for their MOOC. I’m obviously very pleased as a South Australian that the first element of the National Innovation and Science Agenda that is being launched is here in my home city of Adelaide. This $7 million is part of the $1.1 billion that we announced last December to really drive innovation and science as a major part of our economy in the decades ahead. This is part of the area that we have allocated to schools and education, so $50 million to support students in ICT, to support teachers in ICT, $14 million to support young students, particularly preschool age students in coding, learning coding and learning how to interact with mathematics and science. So that’s at least a – that’s almost a $70 million commitment to school funding to support science, technology, engineering and maths in schools.
A big part of that is the capacity of the teachers, and so this MOOC that’s being launched today, or being supported to go national today is going to help enable the teachers to get to the students the information they need in the modern economy, and part of that of course is coding, and $20 million of the $50 million is coding, so the Turnbull Government is really investing in giving young Australians the skills they need. We saw recently a survey of Australian students which showed that they felt that they didn’t leave school with the skills that were needed in a modern economy. The Federal Government is addressing that through partners like the University of Adelaide, so I’m very pleased to be here to be part of the first element being rolled out in the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Christopher. We’ll take questions on innovation and the MOOC while we’ve got Katrina and anything else.
Question: Katrina, do we run the risk that students, the up and coming students are far more tech savvy than the teachers that are teaching them?
Katrina Falkner: They may be tech savvy in terms of using computer science and using technology, but being able to create their own technology is a brand new skill. And so some students will have that skill, but that’s why we need to get in and really work with our teachers now to make sure that they’re up to pace.
Question: Mr Birmingham, just in terms of higher education, would you support a plan for people to tap into their superannuation to pay for their uni debts?
Simon Birmingham: Seems like we’re getting off of the MOOC and innovation already. But look, that’s a proposal that’s being put to the tax reform agenda and consideration of all of those issues of tax reform, and welcome also to proposals which Government will give proper consideration to, but we have to be mindful that the primary purpose of superannuation is to support people’s retirement income and to prepare people for retirement, and to alleviate the long term burden on our pension system. The Government will be cognisant of that, but we welcome contribution, we welcome the ideas, and really the only person at present who isn’t being constructive in putting any ideas into the tax reform equation is of course Bill Shorten and the Federal Labor Party.
Question: Chris Back says it is a good idea and would be good for budget.
Simon Birmingham: And I said, we’ll have a look at all proper ideas, but we also have to look at it in the context of importance of superannuation [inaudible] for ensuring that the maximum number of Australians can provide for their own retirement and reduce the burden on the pension system in the future.
Question: Deregulation’s an important issue for this university and many others. Are you about to bring that back any time soon?
Simon Birmingham: What we declared last year was that there would be certainty for 2016 to make sure that students, universities, all stakeholders would know that we weren’t planning to change the university funding system for 2016, while I consult with key stakeholders. And that’s exactly what I’m doing, and I’ll be having more to say about that later.