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Gov't to scrap existing ICT program in schools in favour of Computer Sciences

Education Secretary wants schools to create their own courses

The government has announced plans to scrap the existing ICT program in schools in favour of Computer Science courses.

Education Secretary Michael Gove made the announcement at the BETT show, which is taking place in London this week. The government is proposing to leave schools free to create their own ICT and Computer Science programs that "equip pupils with the skills employers want".

Microsoft and Google are among the technology companies already working with education organisations such as the British Computer Society, to produce free materials that will be distributed to schools in a bid to help them create the programs. Ideally, the government said it wants universities and businesses to create "new high-quality Computer Science GCSEs" and encourage schools to take advantage of Computer Science content already available on the web.

"As the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, recently lamented, we in England have allowed our education system to ignore our great heritage and we are paying the price for it," Gove said.

"Our school system has not prepared children for this new world. Millions have left school over the past decade without even the basics they need for a decent job. And the current curriculum cannot prepare British students to work at the very forefront of technological change."

The government revealed the British Computer Society and ICT professional association Naace have labelled the existing ICT curriculum as dull and unsatisfactory. Furthermore, a number of respondents to a 2008 e-Skills study said GCSE ICT was "so harmful, boring and/or irrelevant it should simply be scrapped".

Grove added the best degrees in Computer Science are among the most rigorous and respected qualifications in the world... and prepare students for immensely rewarding careers and world-changing innovations.

"But you'd never know that from the current ICT curriculum," he added

"This is why we are withdrawing it from September. Technology in schools will no longer be micro-managed by Whitehall. By withdrawing the Programme of Study, we're giving teachers freedom over what and how to teach, revolutionising ICT as we know it."

The Education Secretary confirmed a consultation regarding the existing ICT program will begin next week.

"Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch. By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in University courses and be writing their own apps for smartphones," Gove said.

John Botham, education director at D-Link said it was "wholly positive" the education secretary has committed to raise the standards of ICT teaching in schools, but warned "the right training of staff is essential to ensure these resources are used to their full potential".

"Recent budget cuts at a local authority level and a reduction in teaching staff has led to a skills gap in teaching ICT. Teachers in this field, in addition to becoming more engaged with the subject, need to be confident in their ability to teach it and this can only come through having the right training in place," he said .

"Through this process pupils can develop real life skills such as greater collaboration, creating and sharing documents and utilising the latest multimedia technology. All of this will stand them in good stead when it comes to them entering the working world."


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