Should profit determine what computing our children learn at school?

Recent discussion about GCSE ICT and the new Computing syllabuses for 2014 has raised in my mind some interesting questions. Specifically I am interested in the triple interface affecting what is learned by each generation. These interfaces are...

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Recent discussion about GCSE ICT and the new Computing syllabuses for 2014 has raised in my mind some interesting questions. Specifically I am interested in the triple interface affecting what is learned by each generation. These interfaces are created by:

  1. The market
  2. The core needs of the nation as decreed by society ... e.g. the National Curriculum
  3. Choices made by students while in full time study.

Taking the points In reverse order it turns out that children have very little choice. Since they cannot choose their parents they cannot choose to be wealthy and access elite fee paying schools nor can they choose their genetics and so rely on innate ability.

They cannot of course choose the majority of what they are taught as it is prescribed by the National Curriculum and is under central control ... as indicated graphically by the demise of the once compulsory GCSE ICT

What they can choose from about 14 years old are what are called optional subjects and these range widely from the GCSE norm through various vocationally-orientated awarding bodies using a variety of acronyms and increasingly the apprenticeships. The latter are increasing at such a rate (lots of funds) that one suspects that not all of them would be exactly what you or I thought was an apprenticeship.

This brings me back to the ICT v Computing subjects now being offered at GCSE and discussed in my previous blog. ICT or Computing are optional. We can debate their merits but some students will opt for them, and we can guess that fewer will take the Computing GCSE than the ICT GCSE.

This is where it gets sticky. I used to do some work developing ICT for an exam board (using FOSS if you are interested) but what was made ultra-clear to us was that this was a commercial enterprise and that the numbers doing ICT with this board were in free fall and we needed to reverse this trend or the exam would not be financially viable.

Given the above and the fact that it must be overwhelmingly likely (having looked at the demands of a computing GCSE) that the uptake will be very small ... below any chance of making a profit.

Now we have it; say it really was important that some sprogs should have the opportunity to study computing or any other minority subject. Well they won’t be able to because it won’t make any money to add to the many millions of pounds of profit made by the exam boards. In 2007 ex-charity Edexcel made £25 million profit rising to £60 million in 2011. It’s now a £1bn industry paid for by you dear taxpayer.

That’s why we have a plethora of useless qualification that kids like ... lots take them so they make a profit. That’s why we won’t see that Computing GCSE I reviewed any time soon.

Exam boards are welcome to stay privatised but they should not be allowed to make a profit.

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