ICT to face crisis in UK Schools

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We are going to have to face a very uncomfortable fact in the coming weeks and months. This new Coalition Government is out of love with ICT in schools.

I am certainly not the only pundit who has noticed the resounding silence surrounding matters ICT amongst the noisy plethora of other announcements concerning educational reform.

All we know so far is that virtually the very first act of this government was to abolish Becta, an act they had uniquely signalled months in advance of coming to power and carried out with a ferocity resembling a pogrom.

Something about it, taken in combination with stories from ex-Becta employees who (subsequently) complained about apparatchik style cronyism within the organisation makes me think that ICT has been linked deeply with the previous administration..and not in a good way.

I fear that the naive, almost childish, faith in the power of computers, shown by the Labour Government resulting in a litany of multi-billion pound failures in major public IT projects, extraordinarily generous agreements with Microsoft and unprecedented database related abuses of civil liberty have tarnished ICT beyond redemption in the eyes of the Coalition.

Worse for ICT, all of the rhetoric of cuts bandied about at present is designed to create (for the very first time that I can recall) a mind set which says ‘what can you stop doing?

If for example they proposed merely a 10% cut what would happen is that a few folk would be lost and their entire activity-set would be taken up by the hapless remainder. But, with 25% and putative 40% cuts it forces the issue towards ‘what will we stop doing’.

I have been involved in education for 30 years and during that time I have never known anything to be dropped, only added. Well, now it is different across the public sector... what will stop being done?

My point is obvious, is ICT something that, push comes to shove, in schools can ‘stop being done’? Would the world stop spinning? Would standards of education plummet? Would fewer students do computing at university?. We all know the answer is thrice no. Would money be saved… Oh yes.

The world is so changed now that in schools and elsewhere that ICT has to justify its very existence. No longer are computers mindlessly accepted as a ‘good thing’, technology in schools will have to prove its value.

But in what context will it be evaluated?

Michael Gove, secretary of state for education, this weekend announced a reform of post 16 exams, dropping AS and beefing up A2 levels. If he gets his way we will once again see students failing exams despite having good teachers, wealthy parents and generous resources. Maybe this will be the opportunity for ICT to earn it spurs as an aid to learning, or maybe not, it’ll all be very interesting.

Personally I think this is a time of unprecedented opportunity for technology. In lazy ‘peace time’ we have used hi-tech devices as toys, in the current demanding ‘war-times’ we will need to use them as them as tools.