GCSE ICT v Computing. Back to Basic?

The future of computer education in mainstream UK school is taking shape. The accepted reference point for a qualification at the end of secondary education is still the GCSE so I thought it would be interesting to look at what is coming...

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The future of computer education in mainstream UK school is taking shape. The accepted reference point for a qualification at the end of secondary education is still the GCSE so I thought it would be interesting to look at what is coming on-stream for exams in 2014.

school-children-sitting-exams.jpgThis of course follows Michael Gove’s well publicised deprecation and ejection from the compulsory curriculum of the current ICT offerings. These had become widely mocked and even blamed for our national decline in home-grown computer expertise so I expect to see the back of that.

I looked at the two offerings from the AQA exam board which are GCSE ICT and GCSE Computing. Both will be optional for GCSE but I’m not sure you could opt for both. I choose AQA because they are big and I had in the past some experience of delivering their ICT programmes ... and can skim read the syllabuses more quickly.

GCSE ICT 4520

It’s recognisably good old ICT at GCSE; no-one can accuse them of throwing the baby out with the bath-water or abandoning a future generation of office-droids to an Office-free life.

You have to look quite hard for the changes but they are there. For example pupils now must understand the differences, advantages and disadvantages of open source and proprietary software (hoping the teachers do). You have to congratulate the massive efforts made by the open source community that they have forced the Government to add these three lines to the 68 page document (yeh that is ‘irony’ if you are reading this in the US).

Communications has been revamped with less emphasis on e-mail and the introduction of collaboration as a section of its own. However here archaism can be found in spades. Collaboration reeks more of sharing an Outlook Calendar so that work-avoidance (aka meetings) can be scheduled than it does of organising a riot on Facebook.

E-mail is still top of the ‘pop3 and mail-merge’ ... just perfect for that secretarial job. Oh and search as I did I could not find the Cloud whatever that is ... did I miss it?

All in all baby is happily gurgling in the bath, ICT is still boring but is still an undeniably useful tool in maintaining the bureaucratic edifice that has brought us to our knees.

GSCE Computer Science (Accredited)

Whoa .. what’s this? Ok it’s not been properly desktop published yet (just typed out) nor has it a number (like 4520-C) so we can wonder what this means. It’s only twenty pages long so it is easy to summarise.

Do this course and you will be given a very sound foundation on how to program computers.

Really I mean it. It’s quite challenging, introduces abstract concepts early, and is organised very progressively but best of all it makes no concession to ‘edutainment’ in order to ‘motivate’ students.

It’s not boring because that would be like saying that the differential calculus was boring. If you think it is then it’s not for you ... none of the usual insulting pap that infests most GCSE curricula to ‘engage modern kids’. This is no syllabus for the 30-something still hip ICT teacher who wears a baseball cap with leggings and hangs out with the kids, this is full-on glorious funny voice and dodgy hygiene territory.

Gosh you could use all those redundant Raspberry Pi computers stacked up in the corner for it.

Summary

The country is saved. Not only will our offices keep on running us into the ground with spam and PowerPoint but the nation will regain its international status as a computing power-house.

I predict 13 boys and one girl with IQs off the scale will just love computing (accredited) in 2014 .

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