Computing curriculum changes welcomed

Teaching young people the 4 Rs from an early age is the ultimate way to enable the information technology innovators of the future to flourish, a leading academic has said.

Kevin Jones, Professor of Computing Science and Executive Dean of Science and Environment at Plymouth University, believes an upcoming overhaul of the computing curriculum will provide children with a more rounded education about the fundamentals of computing and programming, and help drive up standards and creativity in the sector.

Coming into force in September 2015, following consultation with representatives from academia and industry, the new standards will give students an understanding of the fundamental disciplines of computer science, knowledge of programming, software and hardware for information technology and a level of familiarity with digital literacy..

Speaking during a debate in London, Professor Jones added that his vision would be for children of primary school age and above to no longer be taught simply the 3 Rs but for another to be added, creating the 4 Rs of Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and pRogramming.

Professor Jones says:

“Computing is the underlying discipline that has allowed the modern world to create all of the wonderful technology we now depend on for every facet of our lives. We need to ensure we properly inspire the next generation of creative thinkers to push boundaries, and you don’t do that by teaching them to use the latest spanner in the toolbox. It is only by ensuring they are properly exposed to the fundamental concepts that help shape, inform and liberate their minds.”

The debate, organised by the Real Time Club in conjunction with WCIT, carried the title “Computer education: The new school curriculum misses the mark. Again” and the audience included senior executives from some of the country’s leading IT companies, as well as teachers, peers, leading policy makers and academics.

The motion was supported by Dr Jon Hall, from the Open University, who said that IT education needed a rethink in order to “fill children’s heads with dreams of world-changing computing solutions”.

Professor Jones, however, successfully argued against the motion and said computational thinkers add value to the world and that was precisely what the new computing curriculum was geared towards.

A Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Computer Society, Professor Jones added:

“Everyone recognises the current curriculum is not fit for purpose and it has potentially led to us having a 10-year drain on information technology skills. But the only way of solving that is to ensure young people understand the principles before teaching them specific skills at universities and in the workplace. If someone wants to be an accountant, you don’t simply teach them accountancy, they needed a rounded education in all the principles of mathematics. Mirroring that in computing – and ensuring young people have a level of competency in several aspects of it – is what I believe we need, and we at Plymouth University will support teachers in any way we can to ensure the new curriculum achieves that.”

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