Vint Cerf – the founding father of the internet – is backing the BCS’s call for computer science to be included in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).
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In 2015, the EBacc is set to replace the current GCSE examination system in five core subjects: English, maths, a science, a foreign language and one or other from history or geography. Students wishing to take subjects outside of the EBacc will continue to take GCSEs until new syllabuses for other subjects are constructed.
Cerf, the vice-president and chief internet evangelist for Google and a distinguished fellow of the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, decided to air his views following the publication of The case for computer science as an option in the English Baccalaureate report from the BCS.
The BCS report reveals how some of the new GCSEs in computer science require greater intellectual depth to achieve a C grade, when compared with some physics GCSEs.
The report was compiled in response to a comment made by Michael Gove, secretary of state for education.
Earlier this year, Gove said: “If new computer science GCSEs are developed that meet high standards of intellectual depth and practical value, we will certainly consider including computer science as an option in the Ebacc.”
BCS and Computing at School (CAS) stress that computer science needs to be included in the EBacc, or all the work that has been done to ensure the subject is included in the curriculum could be at risk.
According to Cerf, every student should be offered the chance to gain a rigorous computer science qualification before they leave school: “The UK Government could make this happen by including computer science as an option in the English Baccalaureate school performance measure.
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“This will help headteachers realise that computer science is as important for the future success of their students as other scientific subjects such as maths or physics.”
He noted that there are now GCSEs in computer science, that a new ICT curriculum is being developed, the Department for Education (DfE) has developed scholarships for trainee computer science teachers and there is a new Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science starting to link schools with universities to develop CPD for teachers.
However, he said: “Despite this phenomenal progress computer science in school is still embryonic and vulnerable.”
Bill Mitchell, director of BCS Academy of Computing, said not including computer science in the EBacc poses a real risk.
“The EBacc school performance measure is having a significant effect on what schools focus on, with the number of pupils enrolled on EBacc subjects having doubled from 22% in 2010 to 47% in 2011," he said.
“Many headteachers in private say although they approve of computer science in principle, they will not willingly give it room in the GCSE timetable unless it becomes an EBacc subject.”