Results tagged “Michael Gove”

IT exams are a waste of time - let's scrap them

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Let's save us all some time. After this year's A-level results, please read what we wrote about at the same time last year, and the year before - and, frankly, probably every year for at least the last five years.

We can easily regurgitate the same headlines: "Number of students taking IT-related exams falls again." We could almost use the same words in every story, just change the numbers slightly.

It's beyond a joke really, but the truth is that ICT and computing GCSE and A-levels are little more than a joke these days. Just 297 girls sat the computing A-level, for example. What's the point?

The curriculum for ICT and computing is so poorly perceived that IT employers pay it no attention. Hardly any companies look for new recruits with those qualifications - maths, sciences, even languages are more likely to get you a job in IT.

The government has at least finally recognised that the GCSE curriculum is a waste of time, and education secretary Michael Gove duly scrapped it earlier this year - but hasn't replaced it, leaving a vacuum in its place that will likely see students numbers drop even further.

So should we bother at all with IT education in schools? Why not just look for students who have done well in the basic science, maths or engineering topics and leave the IT training to employers?

Well, if IT employers still funded sufficient training, maybe we could. But lack of training remains one of the biggest skills issues facing the IT profession.

We are genuinely fed up of having to write the same story every year. Each time, the same commentators and experts bemoan the lack of progress, but nothing changes. We all know what needs to be done - IT employers need more outreach into schools; the IT profession needs to promote better role models to attract kids to study with the aim of a career in IT; the curriculum needs to reflect the digital skills we will need in 10 years, not those we had 10 years ago.

But it's hard to have any confidence whatsoever that it's going to happen soon. Perhaps this demographic timebomb will need to explode before anything happens - but by then it may be too late.

At the very least, let's do one thing now - recognise that the current exams at all levels are a waste of time, and scrap them. Perhaps that, at least, will spur employers, academics and politicians to make the radical changes that IT education needs.

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IT teaching reform arrives at last - we may not get the opportunity again

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There are some topics in technology that you wish you no longer had to write about.

Government IT failures, for example. The scarcity of UK tech start-ups growing into international players. The business/IT divide. The lack of women in IT. And for as long as I can remember - the appalling state of IT education in schools.

So it's particularly pleasing to see a potential end in sight for the last of those, thanks to education secretary Michael Gove's announcement that the current ICT curriculum is to be scrapped forthwith.

Awareness of the problem of lousy IT education has been around for a lot longer than some of those who have recently jumped on this bandwagon would have you believe. That longevity of the issue is why there has been such a huge sigh of relief across the industry at Gove's announcement today.

We were asking the government what it plans to do to revitalise IT education as soon as the coalition came to power. And we've been cataloguing the decline in IT student numbers for years.

So today's news is an important milestone, but only the start.

Gove was right to call the current curriculum "harmful and dull", but I'm a little sceptical about using populist phrases such as developing an "open source" curriculum in its place - something that could lead to fragmentation of subject matter and varying standards of teaching if it's not properly managed and assessed. There's also the challenge of finding specialist IT teachers who can transfer their passion for technology into their students - too many of those teaching the ICT curriculum are not specialists in the subject but have been co-opted in, such as maths or science teachers.

But at least the government wants to put IT teaching into the hands of the IT industry that knows what it wants from the school leavers it so desperately needs, and which will be needed to put technology at the heart of UK economic recovery.

It still seems amazing that last year research showed the proportion of the UK IT workforce below 30 had dropped from 33% in 2001 to just 19% in 2010. So much for all the years the IT profession was accused of being ageist.

Scrapping the current IT curriculum is the right first step. Harnessing young people's enthusiasm for the technology they use in creative ways that excite them about a career in IT, is the next step. We may not get this opportunity again.

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