ICT curriculum is damaging perception of IT, says IET

By Dawinderpal Sahota
11 Jan 2011 View Comments

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has reiterated the often-heard industry complaint that the current school curriculum does not provide students with the skills required for a career in IT.

It made the statement following a submission to the Royal Society, in response to the Society's ongoing investigation into the state of ICT education in schools.

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"IT teaching in schools is a massive problem and something we've looked into a lot over the past year prior to submitting evidence to the Royal Society.

"We argued that the main problem with teaching in schools is a failure to distinguish between teaching computer literacy, as in how to use Microsoft Word or send an email, and teaching proper computing – the skills that you need to work in the IT industry," said Hugo Donaldson, principal policy adviser at the IET.

He added that the falling number of students opting to pursue ICT education is partly due to the ICT GCSE, and the fact that the difference between this and the skills required for a career in ICT is not being explained to students.

"There was an example on the e-Skills web site of a girl in year 13 who was saying that everyone can do the basic things like send an email so why do a degree in it? The school had implied that a degree in ICT was somehow related to sending emails, which is crazy," said Donaldson.

He added that the IET did not propose to the Royal Society that the ICT GCSE should be abolished, but said that whatever the Royal Society comes up with, it has got to address the issue that students aren't aware of the difference between ICT literacy and computing.

"There's certainly an argument that ICT should be embedded across the curriculum but there should also be an in-depth computing course for students who are interested in pursuing this route."

Donaldson also warned that, according to a recent IET skills survey, employers are struggling to find the IT professionals they need.

"The skills shortage improved during the recession because there were a lot of people in the job market, but it returned in 2010, and it will get worse over the next few years because as companies have struggled to bring in money, they've reduced training and if they've let people go, they may have lost them from the IT industry entirely," he said.

"There's no doubt that worldwide the IT sector is going to expand and if people aren't coming through with the skills to work in that sector, then the UK is not going to get a big slice of the market, which would be a shame because in other ways we're very well placed."

In response to the expected shortfall in demand, the IET set up its own qualification for ICT technicians in 2009.

To be registered as an IET-certified ICT technician, candidates must fill out an application form stating their qualifications, gain some industry experience and pass an interview.

According to the IET, the certification will prepare candidates for roles including network technician, ICT technician, telecoms engineer and software developer.


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