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Australia shows the UK how to teach young people cyber

Cyber education

08:00 Tuesday, 20 July 2021

UK Cyber Security Council

Since as long ago as 2015, the UK government has considered cyber security as an essential inclusion in the school curriculum. Back then, however, the target was GCSE students; as a Government paper said at the time: “Good cyber security is essential to this, which is why it will be a key component of the new computer science GCSE”.

Years later, the UK – although far from alone in this respect – is lagging a long way behind Australia, which recently provoked coverage across the world’s IT and security press by announcing its intention to begin teaching cyber security to children as young as five years of age.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has published a draft of its proposed next version of the nation’s school curriculum, and one of the key additions is a significant focus on the teaching of privacy and cyber security awareness. ACARA’s guide to changes and additions for the Technology stream of the F-10 (4/5 to 15/16 years of age) notes that “A new Digital Technologies sub-strand, considering privacy and security, has been developed to provide opportunities for this Digital Literacy content to be explicitly taught.”

ACARA’s document detailing the proposed new curriculum talks extensively about privacy and security. Privacy, it notes, “includes recognising the risks that are faced online and the mitigation strategies involved in managing them”, and it highlights the privacy principles promoted by the country’s Information Commissioner. With regard to security, it goes on to describe some of the included elements: “the development of appropriate technical, social, cognitive, communicative and decision-making skills to address online and network security risks”, noting that the curriculum “includes data security, and ethical and legal considerations when working with and designing digital systems”.

Australia’s consultation process ran until July 8th 2021; we shall see in due course the extent to which the proposed approach is approved – and how quickly other countries, including the UK, follow suit.