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UK adds computer science to national curriculum
UK adds computer science to national curriculum
January 11, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

The UK's Department for Education will replace its widely criticized ICT (information and communications technology) curriculum in schools, with "an open source curriculum" and "rigorous computer science courses."

Education experts, game industry associations, and even UK Prime Minister David Cameron have previously lambasted the current ICT program for failing to provide computer science courses and to adequately prepare students for the growing number of jobs with technology requirements, especially in the game industry.

"Our school system has not prepared children for this new world," said Department for Education secretary Michael Gove. "Millions have left school over the past decade without even the basics they need for a decent job. And the current curriculum cannot prepare British students to work at the very forefront of technological change."

Gove called ICT in schools "a mess" that many consider "too off-putting, too demotivating, too dull" at London's BETT conference. "That's why I am announcing today that the Department for Education is opening a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Program of Study for ICT from September this year."

He proposed an open source approach that would allow schools to adopt pre-made or customized curriculums developed by leading academic experts and businesses: "By withdrawing the Program of Study, we're giving schools and teachers freedom over what and how to teach; revolutionizing ICT as we know it."

"Universities, businesses and others will have the opportunity to devise new courses and exams. In particular, we want to see universities and businesses create new high quality computer science GCSEs, and develop curricula encouraging schools to make use of the brilliant computer science content available on the web."

Gove pointed out that ICT "will remain compulsory at all key stages" and will be taught at every stage of the curriculum, but that no English school will be forced to follow the Program of Study anymore. The education secretary said, "From this September, all schools will be free to use the amazing resources that already exist on the web."

The announcement comes a year after the government-commissioned Livingstone-Hope "Next Gen" report called for an overhaul of ICT that would add computer science courses to the curriculum. It blamed the slump in UK's video games development sector on the lack of those courses and thus suitably-qualified graduates.

Eidos life president Ian Livingstone, who co-authored the "Next Gen" report, praised the UK government's move and commented in a piece published by The Guardian, "We need to make computer science relevant to children and show them how the subject can help them create amazing content and a lot of money, for themselves and for the country."

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Bart Stewart
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Sounds like "outcome-based education," in which specific methods of instruction are negotiable as long as they demonstrably lead to acceptable levels of performance on standardized tests of knowledge.

I'm neither for nor against this. I just find it interesting to hear it being considered in the UK as it has been elsewhere (Texas, for example).

Rodolfo Rosini
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The UK built an incredible legacy with the introduction of the BBC Micro in schools but over time they dropped the ball and moved onto a "basic excel for dummies" format. Moving away from that is a good thing and overdue.

Luke Quinn
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Australia's education minister better be watching this...

I'm not sure if it has improved, but when I went to school (1991-2002) I didn't ever have a ICT class that didn't focus solely on learning Microsoft Office.

In this day and age, the economic future will depend more and more on the savvy of a given country's people, which means we need to start getting serious about properly funding and supporting education.

Paul Szczepanek
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I think what he's saying is: "we need more of the same". He's essentially hoping commercial companies will step in and hook children onto their products as consumers. Nowhere do I see anything about either sending teachers on courses or getting qualified staff to teach the subject.

Here's hoping against hope.

Harlan Sumgui
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Fact is nothing of value, in terms of one's career, is gained through k-12 except your transcripts and/or SAT scores because the education is not specialized and you are teaching people stuff they didn't choose to study.

Real career-oriented education only begins when a student is studying something he/she has chosen and is paying for . Moreover, k-12 is mostly about developi9ng social skills anyway.