ACEMS Backs Landmark Data Science Project

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS) announces its support for the International Data Science in Schools Project (IDSSP).

The aim of the IDSSP is to transform the way Data Science is taught to senior school age students, and provide students with content that will better equip them to go out into a world that is now very data-driven.

“One of the hopes of the project is to get students excited about Data Science so that they will pursue it further, at University and as a career,” ACEMS Deputy Director Scott Sisson (UNSW) said.

Project organisers say the project is also designed to fill a critical need.

“Demand for data scientists is not only massively outstripping supply, but the situation is worsening, and this is a world-wide problem,” Prof Nick Fisher said.

Professor Fisher (Sydney University) is an ACEMS Affiliate Member, and is leading the effort to get the IDSSP up and going. He says the problem isn’t just making sure there are more data scientists. He believes people in many different professions will need to know how to interpret quantitative information.

“Future generations of lawyers, journalists, historians, and many others should be leaving school with a basic understanding of how to work with data, learn from data, and make decisions in the presence of uncertainty,” Prof Fisher said.

Already, the project involves computer scientists, statisticians, school teachers, curriculum experts and educators from Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The ultimate goal is to create some 240 hours of instructional materials geared toward students in Years 11 and 12 of high school. 

“We want to create content for a pre-calculus course in Data Science that is both fun to learn and fun to teach,” Prof Fisher said.

The project is being carried out in two phases. Phase 1, which is now complete, has been to develop two Curriculum Frameworks. The first Framework can be used to prepare a curriculum for a Data Science course; and the second to prepare a curriculum for a course to teach teachers how to teach their students Data Science. 

“Enabling and empowering educators to feel comfortable with guiding students through their Data Science learning will be critical for the implementation and success of the IDSSP,” Prof Sisson said.

Phase 2 will involve creating materials to support courses deriving from the two Frameworks. Indeed, it will go further, by developing an actual course together with an associated assessment process to teach teachers.  Further, the materials will be designed to support various modes of delivery, with all materials being made freely available.

“For example, one way we can do this is by creating what’s commonly called a MOOC, which is short for a massive open online course,” Prof Sisson said.

As Data Science is fundamentally cross-disciplinary, any resulting curriculum will not be replacing any of the core curricula currently in place at schools, although it may be that some aspects, of say, Statistics, will no longer need to be treated in Mathematics curricula.

ACEMS joins a growing list of influential organisations who have endorsed the framework for the project. They include:

  • American Statistical Association
  • BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT
  • International Statistical Institute
  • New Zealand Statistical Association
  • Royal Statistical Society
  • Statistical Society of Australia
  • Teaching Statistics Trust

More than a half-dozen other groups around the world are also providing support for the project in one form or another.

In the end, the IDSSP goal is simple. The project wants to teach people how to learn from data. It’s a goal ACEMS shares, so our Centre will continue to support and track the progress of the project, and bring you updates as we get them.

ACEMS Media Contact: Tim Macuga, 07 3138 6741,