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In England and the UK, the ICT and computing curriculums have long been falling behind the rest of the world.
Despite the major shake-up to the curricula in 2014, the speed of innovation in the computing and technology sector make it hard for any education system to keep up, and the fact remains that children in the UK are being left behind their international classmates.
The curriculum needs immediate and constant updating if we want our children to develop the capabilities that will maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in technology.
We need to build greater flexibility into the curriculum so that it can constantly react and adapt, and then give teachers the support they need to pass on the evolving information.
Moreover, we need to ensure the curriculum is teaching students the fundamental principles that underpin technology, and ingrain in them the concept of challenging the status quo, to give them the computational thinking abilities to meet the currently unknown needs of tomorrow.
A significant shake up is also required in how the subject is moderated. Students are still doing paper-based exams, which is entirely unsuitable for a technology-based subject.
It means that students can appear to be proficient in the subject, if they know the theory, but lack the skills to perform basic tasks in real life. We need to be testing children on their hands-on skills if we want to prevent the UK’s status as a technological leader slipping.
Digital skills are one area in which we can realistically expect students to be more knowledgeable than their teachers, as technology has been such a prominent part for their formative years.
However, this does not make it acceptable. Currently, only 35% of ICT teachers have a relevant degree, and 75 percent of teachers are uncomfortable delivering the computing curriculum, according to the British Computer Society.
This figure will only be exacerbated by an evolving approach. The clear answer seems to be increase training for teachers but removing a single individual from the classroom for a day can cost as much as £600, and once upskilled they are also likely to expect higher salaries. These challenges can only be overcome through greater financial investment.
Alongside being able to correctly teach the subject matter, it’s also crucial that children are inspired to be interested in computing. One solution to this issue is encourage the systematic visitation of role models to schools.
The ultimate purpose of education is to equip children with the skills they need to flourish in the workforce, and in so doing contribute to the development and economic health of the country at large.
As a result, the current inadequacy of the computing curriculum is having serious consequences for businesses and the UK’s financial well-being. In fact, 52 per cent of businesses are currently struggling to fill tech positions.
As businesses are aware of their own technological needs, how they are or aren’t being met, and the trends they are seeing emerge and are contributing to, they are in a strong position to work with the government to improve the curriculum and help close the skills gap. In short, it’s time they stepped up.
To meet the needs of the future workforce, we must introduce a curriculum that will focus on students’ practical abilities, flex to account for technological advancements, and teach pupils the problem-solving skills needed to become active players in shaping tomorrow’s technology.
This can only be achieved through greater investment in teachers’ own education, and businesses taking responsibility for their role in inspiring the future generation and shaping their education.
Fernando Hernandez, MD of EMEA at XYZprinting