ICT or Computer Sciences – Which Will Prepare Our Kids Best for Future?

Thursday, April 4, 2013, 1:00 AM | Leave Comment

Recent criticism of ICT learning in the UK has seen the decision to remove a fixed national curriculum, with a Computer Science GCSE set to be introduced from 2014. Much of this criticism has been made of the ways in which ICT is not best preparing children for future opportunities in the digital industry, with Computer Science courses instead offering more rigorous programming training.

In this context, it’s worth reviewing the problems with ICT, and whether or not Computer Science programs can offer more employability for the future?

  • Criticism of ICT

    The past five years have produced increasing criticism of the ICT National Curriculum as no longer being up to date with current trends in computing – students learning about Powerpoint, or getting a rough sense of how software works, are not gaining the technical ability to code or write programs.

    33 per cent of boys and 17 per cent of girls reportedly leave school with a poor knowledge of computing as a discipline. Michael Gove and the Department of Education suspended the old ICT curriculum in September 2012, with schools encouraged to produce more innovative teaching, and to prepare for more Computer Science courses, which focus on programming and practical skills.

    Much of the criticism being made of ICT has come from both Gove and industry leaders like Google, who claim that new UK graduates have under-developed programming abilities, at least in terms of the ones that don’t decide to learn on their own time.

    A 2011 Ofsted inspection similarly found that ICT teaching had some basic weaknesses, with a 61 per cent reduction in students taking an ICT GCSE between 2007 and 2011.

  • Changes

    As well as current plans to make ICT A Levels more driven by technical skills, a full Computer Science course will be released by the government for 2014.

    The emphasis within this course will be placed on getting children familiar with the basics of computer programming at a much younger age – methods for achieving this will include the use of microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi, as well as the use of app development, and training to learn how to design for video games.

    New Computer Sciences GCSEs will also be more focused on building practical links with the computer industry, and will combine theory with professional development in programming and coding – this might also include creating music and producing small games.

    The OCR version of the Computer Science syllabus particularly emphasises getting the nuts and bolts of programming instilled within students by the age of 16.

    However, while these measures may yet replace ICT with a stronger Computer Science curriculum, teachers are raising the problem of being able to get up to date with new technology in time to offer relevant courses.

    Moreover, pressure to make ICT training as important as literacy and numeracy skills means making radical changes to other subjects. Organisations such as Computing at Schools are offering teachers grass-root support in terms of training.

For now, it’s fair to say that ICT and Computer Science courses that feature more ‘real world’ training will be preferable to the old system, but that how effective these courses will be remains debatable.

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