Students on computers

Outdated ICT teaching 'puts UK at risk'

ICT teaching in schools in England and Wales is ‘20 years out of date’, the IET’s president says.

Short has slammed the current school ICT syllabus as “not appropriate for the digital generation, [as] it does not equip young people to be able to understand or compete in the modern world”, leaving “very few” having been taught “how to understand, design, and build upon the technology that underpins most of our daily lives”.

He said there is an urgent need for schools to be teaching computer science as a subject “in order that our future workforce is equipped to design, build and maintain the next generation of infrastructure, systems, and products – all of which require elements of computer science and engineering”.

In particular, he added, “we are not teaching at the secondary level how to program or experiment widely with digital technology”. One side effect of this poor teaching has been to grow generations of students who, though avid users of ICT in their social interactions, have no insight into how the latest ICT systems work, he said.

Nor should ICT tuition be confined to the computing classroom, Short argued. “It needs to link to STEM subjects – but not exclusively, as ICT literacy is equally important to many other subjects, from languages to the arts, history to geography. There should still be room for ICT specialists, but all students need to leave school with some basic ICT literacy.”

Short blamed the current situation on governments for failing to set an appropriate curriculum: “Administrations have not kept up with the rise of programming, Internet sources, and the importance of the digital economy to every job and every sector.” What is needed now is “an ICT focus that embraces all of programming, Internet usage, apps, media, and communications”.

However, he welcomed a proposed AS and A Level course in Northern Ireland in software and systems development, which has been developed to meet the needs of local industry. He said that if approved, it would give Northern Ireland’s economy a boost by providing much needed skills.

The president’s remarks accompanied the announcement that the IET will be working with the Computing at Schools (CAS) Working Group – an open, ‘grass roots’ organisation that aims to promote the teaching of computer science at school level. The IET for its part has pledged to build additional momentum for CAS aims through its network of volunteers and schools ambassadors.

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