'Boring' IT classes face being axed

U.K. schools are to axe traditional IT classes, allowing schools to implement an open source curriculum. Are they right to?

In an attempt to modernise IT classes and make them relevant to today's industry, the U.K. government is planning to allow schools more freedom in their choice of content.

The education secretary, Micheal Gove, has announced changes planned for September 2012, ditching the traditional curriculum in ICT for an open-source alternative to assist students in a rapidly digitising economy.

Gove has called the current curriculum "harmful and dull." He wants to encourage schools to integrate more content focusing on computer science -- stepping away from simple use of Excel, Powerpoint and Word that current GCSE courses cling to.

I recall my own time studying ICT in Britain -- and the only thing I found useful, although detested at the time, was learning how to touch-type. I consider this one of the most valuable skills that I left school equipped with, although the drone of 'H, J, K, L, Space' still haunts my dreams.

Perhaps the Department for Education has finally clued up to the fact that most students are already far more technologically proficient than the boundaries of Office applications require.

Instead of being "bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers", the education secretary hopes that children could learn how to program, and should be taught about mobile technology, animation and advances in computing science.

ICT will still remain compulsory, but following pressure from businesses of a shortage in computer literate staff, courses will be receiving this overhaul. IBM and Microsoft are already working on a pilot GCSE curriculum, and the British Computer Society has received guidance from Microsoft, Google and Cambridge University concerning courses leading up to the GCSE exams taught in secondary schools.

If Britain is going to remain a competitive force in the computing industry, this assessment of the IT syllabus is past due. The point of educating children is to equip them for life outside of school -- and in this subject, the content matter is sadly lacking. Most skills taught in the current GCSE course students can learn quickly, and the same content matter is continually repeated.

Frankly, the assessment that the current course sends students in to the world of daydreams and doodles is utterly true. A new GCSE in computing is required if children are going to go on to work or further studies with the skills businesses now need.

I would also suggest that students should be taught more extensively about online privacy, phishing scams and data collection. These are rapidly becoming issues that are just as important to learn about as how to use various software -- perhaps we could therefore prepare the next generation not only by giving them more appropriate skills, but how to conduct themselves properly online.

As your online profile is often scrutinised as much, if not more, than traditional resumes, if we want to equip students to join the labour force, they should understand what elements of communication online can scupper their chances.

Photo credit: Micheal Surran/Flickr