School syllabus holds back future coders, says MP

The next generation of programmers are being held back by a lack of relevant courses in schools, according to a Liberal Democrat MP.

The next generation of programmers are being held back by a lack of relevant courses in schools, according to a Liberal Democrat MP.

MP for Southport John Pugh said school syllabuses did not encourage pupils to get involved in higher-level IT skills, such as programming.

"The education system seems to be putting a high emphasis on the ability to work at a low level with well-known applications," he said. "Years ago, IT syllabuses in schools used to be full of sophisticated educational schemes, including programming."

Pugh said the focus on well-known applications was a good thing, in that computer skills gain prominence, but it holds back British innovation. "We want to develop the people who will create the applications of the future," he said.

"In India and China they are doing far more challenging work inside and outside schools. I would like more programmers coming from the UK, rather than India and China.

"To have a classroom of people who can do a Powerpoint presentation does not convince me that the future of British software engineering is safe. We cannot afford to have a nation of people who are allegedly IT proficient, but actually only have simple know-how in Microsoft applications."

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said GCSEs and A-levels were designed to encourage students to become "discerning users of ICT with an appreciation of the range of systems and their applications, as well as their capabilities and limitations".

A spokesperson said, "These are general qualifications and they are not intended primarily to train students in the use of specific hardware, software or programming languages, but to understand the principles on which they are all based. However, A-level computing courses do contain a significant focus on programming and the understanding of hardware.

"There is also a wide range of vocational qualifications available to young people who want to develop more specific skills for a career in ICT. These can be offered through Modern Apprenticeship programmes and other employer-led training programmes.

"Specific technical skills, such as programming, or in-depth training on proprietary software products, may form a part of such programmes, depending on the specific needs of the learners and employers involved."

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