Computing A-level student numbers continue to plummet

Computing A-level student numbers continue to plummet

Summary: Fewer UK pupils are taking A-levels in ICT and Computing, especially girls, though there has been a rise in those sitting science and mathematics exams

TOPICS: IT Employment

The latest crop of A-level results has seen ICT and computing subjects continue to lose ground, even as more general science and technology exams become more popular.

Education and the high-tech industry have been highlighted by the government as key elements in its plans to generate economic growth.

ICT and Computing A-levels are down, while Science and Maths are up.

However, together computing and ICT entrants made up only 1.7 percent of all A-levels sat in 2012, according to figures released on Thursday by exam boards body the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

Both subjects saw fewer people sitting the exam compared with 2011, too. The number of students taking an ICT A-level fell by 7.3 percent year-on-year, while computing entrants dropped by 4.8 percent.

The picture is more bleak when broken down by gender: in the whole of Northern Ireland, only four girls sat a computing A-level, while the total for female students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined was 297. Proportionally, the breakdown for the subject is 92.2 percent boys, 7.8 percent girls.

In November, prime minister David Cameron underlined the importance of education in developing a tech-savvy workforce and high-tech entrepreneurship at an event in East London.

On the plus side, there was a rise in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) A-level entries in 2012, up 3.1 percent on last year and 29.2 percent on 2007.

Broken out individually, maths (including further maths) rose 3.8 percent and 45.6 percent over the same periods; biology, 1.7 percent and 15.6 percent; chemistry, 2.4 percent and 22.2 percent; and physics, 5 percent and 25.6 percent.

The results come less than a month after a House of Lords committee called for maths to be made compulsory for all those over 16 years of age. The Science and Technology Committee noted that many undergraduates who have taken maths at A-level need to take remedial lessons after arriving at university.

Topic: IT Employment

Karen Friar

About Karen Friar

Karen Friar is news editor for ZDNet in the UK, based in London. She started out in film journalism in San Francisco, before making the switch to tech coverage at Next came a move to CNET, where she looked after west coast coverage of business technology, and finally a return to her homeland with ZDNet UK.

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  • Until the unis get real this is going to continue

    They don't really value ICT/Computing in any sense (with the possible exception of Imperial, and that's a big maybe). A lot of people don't want to do do further mathematics just to go ComSci. They want to get their feet wet in school so they know what they might be getting into at uni and that what they've done is going to help. Currently, ICT/Computing doesn't really help the uni-bound.

    There's still the magical ICT/ComSci "thou shalt be outsourced" millstone around the proverbial neck as well that must be overcome.
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  • Recession

    Sounds like a temporary increase in pupils doing STEM subjects. As soon as the financial situation improves, the numbers will fall again, and numbers on media studies courses will start to go back up.

    As for ICT, I'm too old to have done it at school, but always got the impression it was training to be an administrator. Nothing wrong with that, but I doubt it would be suitable preparation for a computer science degree
  • Gender Differences

    I saw a survey recently which reported that girls were more likely to get into STEM because they were taught it in school, while boys were more likely to do so by tinkering and learning on their own.

    These subjects are ones where those who are highly self-motivated are going to do well. In other words, seems like they will tend to favour boys.