Analysis: Back to the drawing board for ICT education

By Sooraj Shah
24 Jan 2012 View Comments
Michael Gove at BETT

Education secretary Michael Gove has launched a consultation on his plan to introduce a new ICT curriculum that focuses on programming and computer science. Sooraj Shah gauges the reaction from industry and experts

Further reading

Education Secretary Michael Gove told delegates at the annual BETT technology in education conference in London this month that the current ICT curriculum was “harmful” and “dull” and will be scrapped from September 2012 to be replaced by a new curriculum focusing on computer science and programming.

Gove’s move, which was generally welcomed by the IT industry, followed several reports calling for major changes in IT education.

In December last year, a survey by jobs website CWjobs found that a majority IT professionals believe the education system needs to do more to plug an IT skills gap that is damaging the UK’s competitiveness. In the same month, education watchdog Ofsted released the ICT in Schools 2008-11 report, which found that ICT education in England was “inadequate” in a fifth of the secondary schools it surveyed.

Gove believes that a change in the ICT curriculum to give students more insight into programming and computer science would help businesses, which in turn would help the UK economy.

Many in the IT industry agree.

“There has to be a re-imagining of the workforce. The UK can no longer continue as it is because other countries are gaining ground on innovation and creativity,” said Bob Moore, business development director for global education at Dell.

Lars Lindstedt, software economist at Microsoft, believes the new curriculum will benefit both students, by offering a wider range of technology skills, and IT firms, by creating a richer talent pool to recruit from.

“Microsoft wants to make sure it is growing with the next generation of technology and therefore it needs to recruit the next generation of staff with the necessary skills. The demand for these [computing] skills will only continue to grow,” he said.

However, Bill Mitchell, director of the BCS Academy, which is dedicated to advancing computing as an academic discipline, said the government must first make clear what the curriculum will entail and how much freedom teachers will have to vary it. This may be clarified during a consultation process that started on 16 January. The government wants to see universities and businesses working together to create high quality Computer Science GCSEs.

The importance of the role of industry in this process was highlighted by Kevin Streater, executive director for IT and telecoms at the Open University.
“The biggest challenge is for the technology giants to get involved and provide the relevant tools and resources for teachers and students because the current economic climate means that schools cannot afford them,” he said.

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