IT in Education

BBC Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones calls for support for a campaign seeking to boost the teaching of computer skills in schools.   Already fully backed by leading technology firms such as Google and Microsoft, the campaign is supported by the Next Gen report written by co-authors Alex Hope and Ian Livingston.  The report argues that changes to the school curriculum could help the UK become the global hub for video games and special effects industries.

Currently, the UK school education system is under criticism for poor quality IT teaching that pushes clerical skills rather than any real understanding of computing.  With numbers of young people studying the subject on the decline, it seems that they are getting that message too.  With many primary and secondary school children quite capable of picking up Microsoft Office at home for themselves, current IT lessons prove dull and seriously underestimate their capacity to learn.  Percentages of students looking to carry on studying computer science at university have fallen from 5% to 3%.  Furthermore, its reputation as a ‘geeky male’ subject has been reinforced with male applications rising from 84% to 87%.

The Next Gen report suggests that the answer is to put proper computer science in the form of coding on to the curriculum.  Alex Hope, a strong supporter of the hi-tech and creative industries, came up with a slogan for the campaign ‘Coding is the new Latin.  We need to give kids a proper understanding of computers if they’re to compete for all kinds of jobs.’

Rory Cellan-Jones followed up with Prime Minister David Cameron for a response and received an excellent reception.  Cameron admitted that ‘we’re not doing enough to teach the next generation of programmers’ and revealed that a Government report will come out shortly in response.  Cellan-Jones expects positivity but emphasised that it remains to be seen if any there is any real commitment towards putting computer science on the curriculum.

Backup Technology CEO Simon Chappell however, believes that more can still be done.  ‘An inquiring mind and interest in technology is more than enough for a career in IT.  Coding at school isn’t enough because there is so much more to IT.  Schools should be providing introductions to a range of subjects such as networking, web development, software engineering etc.  Kids need to be seeing the basic backend stuff of the games and websites that they visit every day.’



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