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The state of our computing education

state of computing education

We read with dismay the report on the BBC this April regarding computing in schools. A recent study, undertaken by the University of Roehampton, has found that computing in schools is in steep decline.

"It looks likely that hundreds of thousands of students, particularly girls and poorer students, will be disenfranchised from a digital education over the next few years," said Peter Kemp, senior lecturer in computing education at the University of Roehampton.

But, this only seems to tell half the story. As coding educators we know how difficult it is to teach coding. First and foremost it requires an experienced coder working with a detailed curriculum appropriate for the age range of students being taught and that’s before any actual teaching has taken place. Not many of these people exist in our school system at the moment. It’s commendable that the government is recognising the importance of computing in general and taking steps to skilling up teachers to deliver the compulsory computing curriculum but this will not deliver immediate results and to place blame 100% at the door of schools seems unfair.

A shift from the historical ICT qualification to the more robust Computer Science qualification seems to also have played its part in the decline. The Computer Science course is noted for being more rigorous and harder to gain the top qualifications. This may seem off putting to parents, teachers and students striving for top grades and maintaining levels for league tables.

And therein lies the rub. Our education system is focussed purely on results and it’s often easier to avoid a course where it’s not straightforward to get top marks, surely this is highly counterproductive. As coding educators we’re constantly banging the drum for the future value of coding skills, problem solving, analytical thinking and logical thinking that are all developed in our students. The process students learn when coding is highly transferable across any number of coding languages with the underlying logic students learn as the real benefit.

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What is certain is the role that technology plays in our world and how this is only set to increase. We’re still at the early stages of the digital revolution but you can see the impact beyond the devices we already take for granted. The internet of things is where this will really be seen. Smart cities, automation of everyday tasks, the ability to control your heating from your phone are all becoming commonplace. No industry is immune to the digital revolution. Take the legal professional, an aspirational career for many students and their parents. But did you know some are predicting that 80% of tasks in this field will be automated? This is far less publicised than factory workers losing out to robots but it’s the reality. Medicine is another area, people still like their healthcare to be delivered by a person but an AI can now diagnose skin cancer far more accurately than any doctor.

Whilst these examples may seem like novelties now think about the pace of innovation. If your child is 7, 8 , 9 when they step into the world of work in 12-15 years what is the world going to look like?

Codetoday takes a view that we are helping students to be on the right side of the future. Teaching students how to create and control technology as opposed to being made redundant by it. We’re optimistic about the future and we hope to see real change in the education system, I’m sure we will.


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