BCS warns of serious problems in school IT tuition

The BCS: Chartered Institute for IT has welcomed the government's national curriculum review announced this week, saying it will allow the industry to highlight serious concerns about the way computing is taught in schools.

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The BCS: Chartered Institute for IT has said the government's national curriculum review, announced this week, is a key opportunity to tackle major issues with the way computing is taught in schools.

The Institute believes that there is a "serious problem" with the way young people are taught about IT and is calling on the government to address the issue.

Bill Mitchell, director of the BCS Academy of Computing, warned that there was "plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests the ICT GCSE is sometimes used as a soft option that will help a school climb the league tables".

Mitchell said "the majority of students leave school actively disliking what they mistakenly believe to be computing". As a result applications to UK university computer science courses have collapsed by 60 percent since 2000, he said, yet the demand for software professionals across the EU has grown by 33 percent in the same period.

"Computing is an academic discipline in its own right, underpinned by scientific and mathematical principles," he added. "It is concerned with the fundamental principles that underpin computer based systems and the programming languages they can execute. It is about how computers work."

The BCS said the current ICT syllabus contains "almost nothing" about computing and "in too many cases" students learn only how to use office software such as word processors or spreadsheets. The problem was down to the way the curriculum was designed and delivered, not the teachers, it said, although they needed an improved support network as many were not computing specialists.

The BCS said schools needed "inspirational classroom-ready computing material" to extend computing learning to how computers and related technology acually worked.

The Royal Society has begun a study into the state of computing in schools and its importance and implications for the economic and scientific wellbeing of the UK. The BCS is one of twenty-four organisations, including the Royal Academy of Engineering, supporting the Royal Society with its study.

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