Drop tedious ICT lessons, says Intellect

Time for education to grow up and start teaching kids the meaning of computing...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

Time for education to grow up and start teaching kids the meaning of computing...

Classroom: UK tech sector trade body Intellect calls for ICT teaching to be overhauled

UK tech sector trade body Intellect is calling for ICT teaching to be overhauledPhoto: Ben+Sam

There have been fresh calls for schools to dump the dull ICT lessons that are turning kids off IT and failing to create the type of IT-savvy employees that UK businesses need.

Earlier this year, a discussion forum on digital skills heard from a BCS member and IT teacher that pupils and teachers are "bored rigid" by ICT lessons in their present form.

Intellect, the trade body for the UK's tech sector, has now called on the government to drop ICT lessons in their current form from the national curriculum and replace them with ones that focus on higher-value computer science skills. The organisation was submitting its response to a Department of Education review of the National Curriculum in England, launched in January this year.

ICT should also be taught by embedding interactive and multimedia technology across every subject, according to Intellect - which believes technology businesses could play a role here to help teachers make the best use of relevant equipment by supporting training.

Intellect reckons the ICT curriculum is too focused on teaching pupils how to use a limited number of software packages and is therefore failing to inspire students to develop more advanced computer skills.

"We believe that ICT in its current form should not be a statutory programme of study," said John Hoggard, Intellect's education programme manager, in a statement. He noted that take-up of ICT courses is falling, with applicants to GCSE ICT courses sliding 57 per cent between 2005 and 2010.

"The basic ICT skills being generated by the education system are not meeting the needs of pupils or their potential employers," he added. "Our member companies tell us that they often have to spend considerable time up-skilling employees as a result of the current ICT teaching."

Intellect is recommending that computing should be a discrete subject available to pupils from Key Stage 3, aged 11 to 14, onwards with options to follow a "progression path" where they learn increasingly more advanced skills. The organisation also believes computing should be a part of the English Baccalaureate.

Some campaigners for reform of IT teaching would go even further. Dr Sue Black, a senior research associate with the software systems engineering group at University College London, who earlier this year attacked the ICT curriculum for failing to inspire her own daughters to get into IT, believes computing should be taught in primary school.

"Computer science should be given more weight and taught age-appropriately from age five or before," she told silicon.com. "Programming concepts can be taught from age five or earlier. [Computer science] should be a fundamental subject along with maths and English."

"The future UK economic viability is at stake here," she added.

Tim Hatch, a member of Intellect's education group, and education and public sector business development manager at Intel, added that the viability of the UK high-tech industry depends on a steady flow of students with science, technology, engineering and maths skills.

"Intel sees other countries, especially emerging markets, evaluating the skills they need and developing curriculums to match to ensure future growth. It is vital we develop our advanced computing, Stem [science, technology, engineering and maths] and basic ICT skills in the UK to ensure we can compete with these emerging economies and this work needs to begin in our schools," he said in a statement.

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