The Government in England has decided to get rid of the ICT — Information and Communication Technology — qualifications at GCSE and ‘A’ Level. (For the uninitiated, those are the school-leaving qualifications at 16 and 18 respectively, with the ‘A’ standing for advanced.)
As far as the Government is concerned, Computer Science is more rigorous and more useful, while the stuff included in the ICT syllabuses will be covered elsewhere in the curriculum.
Well, someone hasn’t been paying attention for the last 30 years. Except in a very few cases, schools have struggled to teach ICT effectively across the curriculum. There are several reasons for this, not least the slightly important one that teachers have their own subject syllabuses to get through.
But anyway, back to the immediate issue, which is that a petition has been created to have the Government reconsider its position. At the time of writing there are 8,750 signatures — just 1,250 short of the number needed to have the Government respond.
Kay Sawbridge, Faculty Leader of Computing and ICT in a secondary school, has been very active in promoting this petition, which was created by Aleks Lukic. And just in case you are thinking that here is someone who can’t teach coding etc, Kay teaches both ICT and Computing at GCSE, so she is not biased towards ICT. She enjoys them both, and her university degree covered network architecture, programming etc.
I interviewed her on Facebook.
WHAT IS THE ISSUE IN ONE SENTENCE?
The Department for Education (DfE) is blindly ignoring the fact that ICT and Computing are totally different subjects and offer a completely different set of skills; saying they are the same is a common misconception.
WHY IS THE ICT QUALIFICATION WORTH SAVING? AFTER ALL, THERE ARE COMPUTER SCIENCE COURSES. WON’T PUPILS LEARN ICT SKILLS IN OTHER CONTEXTS ANYWAY? ARE U AND OTHERS MERELY TRYING TO HOLD BACK THE WAVES?
ICT offers students vital, transferable skills which are essential for ‘life after school’; college, university and work.
Universities and employers expect applicants to have good ICT skills and with already 12 million people falling into the UK Digital skills gap (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34570344), this decision can only add to this.
To remove ICT would potentially lead to a ‘lost generation’ of pupils who will leave school without skills in digital literacy. We cannot fail our pupils in this way. Industry needs digitally literate school-leavers and graduates, and a reformed GCSE and A Level ICT would provide a solid foundation for these digital skills. It cannot be left to other subjects to teach ICT, we would end up with a generation who could only create poorly laid out PowerPoints and Word documents. Students need to be taught how to use all types of softwareproperly — spreadsheets, databases, video, sound and image editing to name but a few. They need to learn to make decisions based on target audience and purpose, be creative and make their own choices. They need specialist ICT teachers who can prepare them for life in the very competitive world of work.
Employers often state in job adverts ‘good ICT skill required’. Not all students want to be a programmer or a network manager. We need to offer all students the opportunity to study this extremely valuable subject. It’s not about holding back the waves; it’s about developing the ICT qualifications to cover all the skills needed to protect our students’ future.
OK, YOUR ANSWER TO THE PREVIOUS QUESTION HAS CONVINCED ME. WHAT ACTION CAN I, A HUMBLE TEACHER IN AN ORDINARY SCHOOL, TAKE?
I would ask all teachers to sign the parliamentary petition, spread the message on social media, tell parents, their school’s board of governors, write to Nicky Morgan (the Education Secretary) and their local MP; email or ring their local paper -– stand up for your beliefs, have a voice and make yourselves heard. Don’t just sit back and take what’s offered, for the sake of the future generations.
WHAT’S YOUR HOPED-FOR OUTCOME OF THE CAMPAIGN?
I would like a proper consultation involving at least teachers, exam boards and industry on ICT resulting in a redeveloped ICT GCSE and A level.
WHAT WOULD BE A REASONABLE SECOND BEST OUTCOME?
Honestly, this has to be the outcome, a discussion on ICT and redevelopment. We cannot lose ICT. As the the DfE stated, our curriculum should offer all students the chance to study a balance of ICT, Computing and Digital Literacy.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Figures show that more than 111,000 students sat the GCSE in ICT in 2015 (47,000 girls and 63,000 boys) and by deciding not to redevelop, the government is depriving hundreds of thousands of students who have no interest in GSCE Computing (which is heavily programming weighted) the chance to gain a qualification that offers a range of skills essential for the 21st Century workplace.
In 2015 35,000 boys and 5,000 girls sat Computer Science, so by getting rid of ICT we could create a biased curriculum girls are reluctant to follow or find difficult to access. (Percentage of girls — ICT 47%, Computer Science 12.5%). (See also the article Control + delete: why the Government shouldn’t get rid of ICT.)
I would just ask everyone who shares in my passion for a subject which students find engaging, creative and offers them life long skills, to stand up and do something.
Thank you for letting me have my say.
No, thank YOU.
IT is the most valuable STEM subjecthttp://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-rankings/25-stem-majors-with-the-best-value-2015.html
Read this article for information on how to get hold of an up-to-date (as of 19th November 2015) list of approved ICT and Computing qualifications and their alternatives.
What alternatives to ICT have you been considering? And what challenges have you faced implementing the Computing curriculum in general? Please take a couple of minutes to complete this survey.
This article is taken from the forthcoming issue of Digital Education, the freenewsletter for people with a professional interest in educational ICT and Computing. Subscribe to the newsletter in order to download a checklist of factors to consider when looking at alternatives.