Ofsted’s report into information communication technology (ICT) in primary and secondary schools (The Importance of ICT), published last week, confirms many concerns that computing departments in universities have about the school IT curriculum.
The report paints a worrying and damning picture of ICT in schools that threatens the IT profession, the future of UK computing departments and the wider economy. Put simply, after primary education, the IT curriculum is failing students and not preparing them for degrees and then careers in the IT industry.
The dismay of Ofsted inspectors is clear, for example they note that “...many students were following qualifications of doubtful value.”. Looking more deeply the report notes that “...standards in using spreadsheets, databases and programming remained low.”.
Furthermore, teachers gave too much emphasis to teaching students to use particular software applications. One may then ask, where's the challenge and excitement? The Ofsted report makes it clear that this is non-existent.
“Students were spending considerable time demonstrating proficiency in what they could already do..., rather than being introduced to new and more challenging material and skills.”
The report makes no mention of the confusion in the educational establishment between IT user skills and IT as a profession. This strikes at heart of the problem. Much of what is taught in schools is use of office packages.
Any parent can tell you that children are already adept at this by the end of their primary school education. The ability of students has been grossly underestimated. It is no wonder that the able students are put off.
It is no surprise that ICT qualifications become a vehicle for schools to meet league table targets. The Ofsted report notes that it is possible to gain twice the GCSE points with half the lessons with some ICT qualifications. Though GCSE and A-levels in ICT are also deficient, the implication is that ICT is something to give the weak students to do.