7000 students learn coding with Microsoft campaign

This week saw more than 7000 school students from all over Australia learn computer coding as part of the #WeSpeakCode campaign, led by Microsoft.

The campaign, which ran from May 11-15 and makes up part of Microsoft's YouthSpark program launched in 2012, was a push to encourage more Australian students to take up computer coding and discover how others are using it to change the world.

Recent research by the vendor shows Australian students are well behind their counterparts in the Asia Pacific region when it comes to coding training and uptake, with only 32 percent claiming to have the opportunity to learn coding in school - the lowest figure in all countries surveyed.

Nearly two-thirds of Australian students surveyed said they wanted to know more about coding, but didn't have the opportunities to gain the computer skills they need. The #WeSpeakCode week included help from volunteers and teachers who showcased coding through school and community events, tutorials and online activities for more than 130 schools nationally, with a particular focus on helping students from disadvantaged schools.

The event was held in partnership with The Smith Family, UTS, the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, NSW. Speaking at the launch of the event, Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, said: "Improving the technology skills of students is essential for Australia to remain competitive and prosperous in a globalised world."

"We need to expose more students to coding so they are inspired to create, build and develop new technologies rather than just being passive users of it," said Turnbull. Microsoft has established a number of initiatives to inspire young people to develop innovative solutions using coding and new technologies, including the Imagine Cup global tournament, where students can team up to produce applications, games and integrate solutions to change the way we live. "We have a problem in Australia around the uptake of coding among our young people, which needs to be addressed now, otherwise students could miss out on huge career opportunities," said Pip Marlow, managing director for Microsoft Australia. "It is important for educators to move on from asking whether or not to offer coding as a subject -- but how it can be integrated into the curriculum as soon as possible," she said. This was echoed by The Smith Family, a key #WeSpeakCode partner focused on helping disadvantaged youth. "With the current high youth unemployment rate, it is important to ensure more Australian students, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, have access to the right kind of training so they can develop key skills to successfully attain employment," said Dr Lisa O'Brien, CEO of The Smith Family. "Today's event showcases the importance of ensuring a more digitally literate student population. This is particularly important for students who are less likely to have this kind of access to technology and training than their more affluent peers."

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Bonnie Gardiner

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