Education officials in the UK are pushing to integrate a new IT curriculum in grade schools. A must read if you have a young one at home who is interested in learning how to program.
Children as young as five in the UK are being taught computer programming and algorithms at school as part of a complete overhaul of the computing curriculum by the DfE (Department for Education).
This has stemmed from the eradication of the previous IT syllabus which was judged to be irrelevant to today’s children.
The new curriculum will be mandatory from September 2014, and spans the breadth of all four ‘key stages’ (from the start of school to the end of compulsory education).
Lessons on basic computing such as Microsoft Word will no longer be necessary. Given how pervasive this sort of software is in our day-to-day lives, the new curriculum will have a strong focus on programming, algorithms and problem solving.
It will teach students a range of skills over their entire school life, including how to use search technologies effectively, how to create and debug simple programs, and how to differentiate between the hardware and software components that make up computer systems.
Some believe that this is good news, and that it’s fitting to give children more advanced IT skills. Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Education) opined:
For the first time children will be learning to program computers. It will raise standards across the board – and allow our children to compete in the global race.
However, critics have argued that the syllabus puts too much into programming and not enough into the broader subject of IT itself.
Either way, the way that we teach IT in our schools needs to be reconsidered, and this can definitely be seen as a step forward. With kids today using technology from the moment they can grasp a device, it is no surprise that they are more advanced in this respect by the time they are in high school. Most already have their own high-tech equipment and know how to use it almost instinctively. The next generation of IT leaders are being created, and their skills will be in demand.
On a related note, concern must be raised at the shortage of available teaching staff to provide such a curriculum. There is already a shortage in computer science teachers, and it’s a subject area that suffers from cuts during tough economic times. This means that whatever money governments have to train IT teachers won’t be as easily accessible to those who are willing to learn.
It’s all very well to update the curriculum and make it tougher and more rigorous for the students, but they will need dedicated and knowledgeable teachers who know what they’re talking about if they are to learn these essential new skills. There is no shortage of IT-literate citizens in our society, but what motivation do these people have to become teachers?
Not many IT workers use their skills to teach, preferring instead to remain in the private sector. Can our readers shed any light on this? Why is this the case?
Thomas Jones writes for Penman, an IT infrastructure services provider in London.