Earlier this month saw Michael Gove, the UK’s Education Secretary propose new plans to scrap the existing ICT curriculum, allowing schools to design and tailor their own course. The Guardian helped spark reform throughout the week with its Digital Literacy Campaign.
Supported by blue chip companies such as Google and Microsoft, the aim was to improve the teaching of computing science and ICT through raising awareness of the disparity between the skills of UK students’ learned from their current curriculum and what the industry expects suggest is required for the economy. The UK Culture Minister – Ed Vaizey – has now ranked computer skills alongside the arts and humanities, “we are all going to live a digital life… Just as we write well and read well… a basic understanding of computer coding will help you understand the structure of your digital life.”
Not only do these digital skills contribute to the British economy, it has also become in vogue among the younger generation with an increase in apps and a self-taught attitude to coding with websites and forums offering step-by-step tutorials. Therefore, as the digital economy expands, why has the UK education system not caught up and raised the importance of digital literacy within our classrooms?
There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of students opting to study ICT, what’s more, girls are especially disinterested with the traditional ‘geeky’ image surrounding the subject. There has also been increasing case studies where students are becoming frustrated with the lack of resources invested in the ICT curriculum and unchanging syllabus, highlighting a drastic need to shake up the system.
Steve Beswick, Director of education for the UK at Microsoft agrees and states that, “we must introduce computer science concepts a lot earlier and this will help broaden the number of people that want to do this as a profession.”
The UK ICT education system is falling behind other countries such as South Korea, Israel and even Scotland - who are considered to be pioneers of teaching ICT. In Scotland, children as young as six start learning about the basics of computer science and schools strive to incorporate computing into almost every subject on the curriculum. In Uruguay, their ‘one laptop per pupil’ program has proven successful and has helped to generate interest in the subject.
So what happens now for the future of Digital Literacy in the UK? Since Gove’s new DIY style reform, there is still a lot of uncertainty within the teaching of computer science in school. However, it does give schools and teachers the opportunity to listen to students and experiment with their syllabus to meet their student’s and the economy’s ever changing needs.
Some interesting areas which The Guardian campaign revealed that schools should consider when designing their new syllabus are:
- Reshaping the image perception of ICT for male and female students.
- To widen the students experience of computing to more than PC’s and Macs, but to experience other operating systems also.
- Take advantage of the vast amount of material online and encourage self-teaching.
- Relinquishing the control over teachers using Social Media within the classroom.
- Technological innovations that could revolutionise classroom learning for the more complex subjects such as Maths, Design, Art and Science, including: gamification, programming, motion capture and animation modelling.
If nothing else this DIY style reform should at least allow more forward thinking, technically competent teachers to develop best practices that can then be rolled out on a wider basis.
From a partner perspective it also opens up a number of potential opportunities for those channel players in the Education sector to work with schools and universities to provide them with the technology they need. For example, the Rent-a-PC scheme Stone announced at BETT (British Educational Training and Technology Show) earlier this month.