The UK's GCSE results came out this week and, on the whole, it's been positive news for the IT industry, with a 38 per cent year-on-year rise in students aged 14-16 taking the ICT exam - 73,847 exams sat this year compared to 53,197 last year.
It proves that, despite having to study a curriculum that Education Secretary Michael Gove himself called "boring" as he vowed to change it in early 2012, children are still willing to learn about ICT, and are thinking about its possibilities for their future careers.
"With 90 per cent of jobs in the future predicted to require some form of digital and computing knowledge, there is mounting pressure on the government from business groups to ensure students leave school armed with relevant digital skills for the workplace and to help grow the UK's tech sector," Oracle Academy EMEA director Jane Richardson told Computing earlier today.
"However, there is still some way to go in aligning the curriculum with needs of these employers. It is vital that the education system uses this positive news as a jumping off point and looks to develop ICT courses through partnerships with companies like Oracle Academy, to identify the skills children will need in the future and deliver a curriculum that will advance children's skills."
Oracle Academy is keen to offer resources and training to educational institutions to help them teach, but what about the exam boards?
Earlier this month, examination board EdExcel released draft sample course and exam materials for the new "Computer Science" GCSE, which will start being taught in a few weeks.
As an IT professional, are you up to the new GCSE standard? Find out as Computing presents a condensed version of an EdExcel GCSE paper.
[START OF TEST]
A photographer uses a program on his computer to access an image file stored on a magnetic hard disk drive.
Give two features of a magnetic hard drive that make it suitable for this purpose. (2 marks)
The operating system assigns memory to the image file.
a) Describe the function of memory. (2 marks)
The photographer downloads images from a website. The images are compressed.
b) Give one reason why images are compressed. (1 mark)
A lossless, run-length encoding (RLE) algorithm is used to compress the images.
Below is some of the data for an image:
r r r r b b r y y y
c) Apply RLE to the data and give the result (2 marks)
At the end of each week, the photographer transfers the photographs from the camera's memory card to his computer's hard drive.
Explain how to calculate the time it will take to transfer 2,000 photographs. Please note each photograph takes up 5MB od space. (2 marks)
Assembly code makes use of registers.
Describe the role of registers in a microprocessor. (2 marks)
A running club uses a computer to record training data for its members. After each run the total time and the number of laps are stored for each runner.
A subprogram is used to calculate each runner's average time per lap.
a) Write an algorithm to calculate the average time. (2 marks)
The subprogram will be written in a high-level language.
b) Explain one benefit of using high-level programming language for this subprogram. (2 marks)
c) Give one reason why programmers use subprograms. (1 mark)
[END OF TEST]
How did you fare? We'd hope you passed with flying colours.
These sample EdExcel questions show a variety of new demands are to be placed on students from September 2013. From understanding key concepts in hardware and software, to being asked to appreciate the coding routines underlying everyday encoding techniques to writing short examples of code of their own, the Computer Science GCSE looks like a massive improvement on today's ICT GCSE.
Computing consulted an old ICT GCSE paper from summer 2012, courtesy of the WJEC board, which included such questions as "What is the purpose of 'bcc' in an email system?" and "name two advantages of using spreadsheets to control budgets".
Next to what has come before, the new GCSE standard looks like a big leap forward.
Please leave your exam performance in Computing's EdExcel sample in the comments section below - we'd love to hear how you got on.