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No shock – teaching in computing inadequate

December 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

No real surprises in this report from the UK schools inspectorate, OFSTED, as reported by the Guardian newspaper.

The Guardian says: “Schools are jeopardising the career prospects of thousands of teenagers by failing to offer compulsory classes in computing, a damning report by inspectors shows.

A three-year study by Ofsted found that in almost a fifth of secondary schools, up to half of 14- to 16-year-olds are not taught computing – known as Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

The subject is compulsory for children aged five to 16 and is seen as crucial to rebuilding of the economy.

Inspectors denounced the quality of teaching in the subject as inadequate in more than a quarter of secondary schools.

Too many ICT teachers have limited knowledge of key skills, such as computer programming, they said.

High-flying students are often not stretched and their interests in the subject are ignored, while many pupils spend computing lessons repeating tasks asked of them a year ago.”

I think the problem goes back years to the days of the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). The ECDL focused on the ability to use a standard PC, and despite valiant attemts to produce an open source version, the ability to use standard Microsoft applications. This has little to do with ICT or technology and nothing to do with programming. The ECDL was highly sucessful and permeated school practice, where students were taught how to make powerpoint presentations, use a spreadsheet etc.

However the criticisms of this approach and the weaknesses of teaching ICT are not new. What is interesting is that the issue has now come to the fore. I am not quite sure why, but it is very encouraging to see such a debate.

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