Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 08 Oct 2009

Most computing jobs now go to foreign graduates. Why do our schools do such a bad job of encouraging pupils into this vital area?

Hillary's Advice

I checked out what you say and you are right. Although the demand for IT professionals keeps rising, the number of British students taking up computer science at universities has dropped by an astonishing 60 per cent since 2000.

Why? Well those in the field say it is because what so schools teach is so narrow and boring. Most schools are still focusing on teaching things like word processing, spreadsheets and putting together Power Point presentations, all of which are a big turn-off for today’s technology-savvy kids, so the numbers going on from GCSE to take A level computing have plummeted.

What can be done? Schools should, say the experts, be teaching pupils much more about hardware, how to develop databases, how to set up websites and the technical aspects of multimedia. Interestingly, some teachers say they are finding that the new Diploma in Information Technology is giving pupils a better chance to get a rigorous qualification with lots of hands-on learning.

Teachers should also be enthusing pupils about how computers underpin every aspect of modern society and making sure they understand the full array of degree options available at university – from game design to cybernetics.

One problem, of course, as so often in education, is a shortage of good teachers, and some people believe that the new money that is now going into encouraging pupils to study science or technology at university would be better spent on developing computer science in schools. There also needs to be much better support and training for existing ICT teachers.