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back to article ICT classes in school should be binned – IT biz body

Schools should stop teaching ICT lessons in their current form as the subject is failing both pupils and employers, according to trade bod Intellect. "We believe that ICT in its current form should not be a statutory programme of study," says John Hoggard, Intellect education honcho. "Takeup of ICT courses is falling – GCSE …

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Boffin

To be honest...

It would be much better to give children typing lessons.

They would have a huge advantage later in life if they left school being able to touch type.

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Couldn't agree more...

The qwerty keyboard is now one of the main input devices for most things in modern life - being able to use it quickly and efficiently is a great skill (one I don't have) but the fact that it is no longer taught in school is kind of rediculous...

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Touch Typing Should Be...

...required as soon as the student's hands are big enough.

Word processing should integrated into Writing Class, Spreadsheeting into maths, etc.

By the 8th or 9th year, students would not only have career enhancing USER skills, but those with a knack could take specialist courses.

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Troll

Meh!

Be nice if we could get them able to read and write properly, first.

"Mum! Mum! We learnt typing at school today."

"That's nice, dear, what did you type?"

"Dunno, can't read!"

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Headmaster

"rediculous"

Spelling is similarly ill-taught, it appears.

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its bollocks

When I was in high school 15 years ago they made the french teacher do ICT as she had some computer experience ( i think she had one of those word processor units). Meanwhile we had been programming our BBC micro in primary school, she asked me one day how I got the little * above the 8, so I showed her the shift key.

I stopped caring at that point and just rushed the whole years work off in about 1 week and still got top marks. A bunch of us formed our own computer "club" in lessons and taught ourselves programming and advanced office techniques from books and computer magazines. While the other half the class struggled with copy/paste.

To be fair to the teacher she recognised the status quo was rubbish and encouraged us to do this.

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Alert

Even more incredibly,

The first generation of programmers never followed any computing course!

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FAIL

Likewise ...

the first doctors, pilots, surgeons, dentists, builders, architects, engineers, ...

Let's save money and time and do away with all training. Learn on the job.

Personally, I find most "self-taught" "programmers" dreadful, with no idea of design, testing, standards, clean code, comments or working with others. But it is amazing the amount of cockiness it gives them. Shame they do not teach themselves humility.

Minor gripe, when did British people start poncing up from primary to "high school" instead of "secondary"? Ugh, yanky-isms. Do they go to proms at the end of term and watch cheer leaders from the bleachers while wearing baseball caps and swallowing hamburgers? Sadly, I fear they do.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Likewise ...

My secondary was called [place name] High School. So I say high school. It's shorter, anyway, saves a few syllables. Nothing to get upset about.

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WTF?

same time as....

They started renaming Comprehensive Schools, Community Colleges. I went to a Comp, it’s now called a community college. STOP BULLSHITING THINGS call a spade a spade, it’s a fecking school not a college. A college is somewhere you go after you finish school.

I think it was a new labour thing, they did their usual, call something a fancy name to try and fool the voters.

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Flame

@Likewise

"I find most "self-taught" "programmers" dreadful, with no idea of design, testing, standards, clean code, comments or working with others"

In my experience, as an employer, I find that self-taught programmers actually enjoy and care about the job and produce better results, as opposed to those churned out from higher education who are mainly in it for the money and don't care how shoddily they do the job as long as it just about works.

As an employer, I'll take the former over the latter every time.

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Anonymous Coward

High Schools

I went to a "High School" way back in 1977, and they'd been around in my area some time before that. It largely depends on the system the LEA implements. Its either Primary (5-10), Secondary (11-19) or Primary (5-8), Middle(9-12), High(13-19).

We never did "proms", graduation ceremonies, etc.

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FAIL

anybody who knows anything worthwhile is self taught

"""Personally, I find most "self-taught" "programmers" dreadful"""

Personally, I find most "self-taught" "managers" dreadful. Shame they do not teach themselves humility.

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Vic
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Re: Likewise

> Let's save money and time and do away with all training. Learn on the job.

Without wanting to detract from your irony, it does rather fail in the IT sector because the formal training is so often crap.

I've interviewed hundreds[1] of grads who claim all sorts of coding capabilities, and can quote verbatim from the text books on demand - but when given a simple design problem, just cannot do the job. They all seem to be educated to pass exams, not to solve real-world problems.

> when did British people start poncing up from primary to "high school" instead of "secondary"

It's quote common these days.

> Do they go to proms at the end of term

Yes.

Vic.

[1] No, I'm not exaggerating.

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Boffin

Education ain't what it used to be...

Primary / Secondary

OR

First / Middle / High

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-tier_education

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High Schools

I think you'll find that the term High School has been around for quite a while in the UK, the one in Stamford, Lincolnshire since 1877 for example.

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Troll

High School?

I went to public school like a proper Englishman should.

Bloody commoners.

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing Wrong With The Name "High School"

From where I'm from the local L.E.A ran a three school system. Therefore we had, primary, middle and High Schools.

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Sensible idea...

Having spent time in the past working as both a school ICT technician and (briefly) as an ICT teacher, the majority of pupils found the concept of applying the same skill across multiple contexts an alien idea (probably because it's a skill they didn't need to apply in almost any other subject, apart from say English, where the skills would have been embedded at primary level where skills / subjects aren't so highly compartmentalised). And cross-curricular IT generally fails to make best use of the technology, as the teachers themselves aren't familiar with it. If it can be properly embedded in the curriculum, so much the better. And *please* dump the emphasis on spreadsheets and database design, which tend to make up a significant portion of most GCSE-level ICT curricula but are a huge turn-off for all but the brightest, because whatever context you use, they have the preconception that spreadsheets and databases are hard. And let's face it, how many of them are going to be using nested IF statements or designing databases in their eventual career? I guess not many. Currcula involving ICT across both dedicated subject ICT and cross-curricular ICT need to be designed to teach skills that *will* be useful to the pupils, regardless of their chosen career. One simple example: sourcing images that are free to use and quoting the correct URL, rather than images dot google.

Several schools I worked at had ICT suites that were more-or-less dedicated to cross-curricular ICT (i.e. virtually no subject ICT was taught there). Needless to say, they were the most 'unloved' rooms, especially as they were favourite locations to dump the "alternative curriculum" pupils (i.e. those for whom a full GCSE course would be too demanding) - and consequently they were the most vandalised rooms as well, vandalism ranging from creatively rearranging the keys on the keyboard to spell out expletives to removing blanking plates to castrating the mice (in the days when optical mice were significantly more expensive than the other sort)... not to mention swapping the cables from computers placed back-to-back and flipping the voltage selector on the PSU.

And even if the teachers are reasonably familiar with ICT, the entire class has to be watched like a hawk, as little Johnny who looks so studious might actually be playing Line Rider...

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WTF?

how many of them...

are going to be using nested IF statements or designing databases in their eventual career?

well prolly none of them with that attitude!

maths, physics, chemistry, and code herding are all hard.

bloody hard

'cos if it was easy then everybody would be doing it.

that is kinda the point in aspiring to be a 21st century, high tech, high value, high employment economy.

but if as you say all our kids are thick as pigshit and cant be arsed to apply themselves, then i guess closing all those factories in the 70's and 80's was a really dumb move.

cos stuffing washers into the top of a shock igzorber for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year is a piece of piss

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FAIL

Even in the early 90's

My ICT lessons did not cover general computing! Just using a acorn to paint pictures and write vector drawings... with a demo of prestel! All for a GCSE.....

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"GCSE courses in ICT show a 57 per cent decline in numbers between 2005 and 2010."

Because schools aren't letting kids take the GCSEs, opting instead for easier more worthless courses (that of course the schools claim are worth some ridiculous number of GCSEs, such as 10 or 20).

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Keep compulsory IT, but review the syllabus

Having seen the compulsory GCSE half course 6 years ago when I did my GNVQ, it's not really IT skills, it's "how to use Microsoft Office" skills. My siblings are currently doing the compulsory IT element in school, and it seems to be much of the same.

I do think these basic skills can be useful in business, as otherwise people can be somewhat lost, and students would need these skills for the other lessons.

However, the coursework for these qualifications typically requires students to churn out vast amounts of stuff like posters and letters and websites (using a WYSIWYG editor of course), which seems rather pointless as they must contain mostly pre-set text.

Looking at it, I think keeping compulsory basic IT training in schools up to GCSE level is worthwhile, as it should remove the idiocy some users show before they enter the workplace, but perhaps the syllabus should be reviewed, as things like staying safe online (i.e. why you shouldn't download this program even though it says your computer is full of viruses) are likely to be of more benefit than churning out posters and websites.

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Bronze badge

Seeing the results...

I took a very basic IT course, a few years ago, so as to have a piece of paper to wave in front of HR departments.

About half those taking the course were fresh out of schooi, and still struggling with the basics.

One problem seems to be that the curriculum development process can be so much slower to respond to changes than the real world of computer use. It wasn't quite so ridiculous to talk about Netscape in 2004, but there were a couple of obsolete search engines listed in the notes.

The computer graphics test--lay out a CD cover--was simple enough (and I was getting bored) that I did it without touching the mouse.

I obviously don't know about the current standards, but it struck me then that something such as the EDCL was a useful target for every school leaver, and a minimum standard of knowledge for every teacher, while a GCSE should be reserved for something a bit more advanced.

Somebody earning an ICT GCSE should have some idea about programming. That's a step up from the computer literacy everyone should have if they can get a good GCSE pass.

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It still is

I finished my GCSE in ICT only the year before last, and it still consists of exactly that. How to use Microsoft Office (with not even the slightest mention of any other office suite options).

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Headmaster

But what do the teachers know?

It's not that far from the ICT skills demanded of all newly qualified teachers...

http://www.tda.gov.uk/trainee-teacher/qts-skills-tests/ict/practice-materials.aspx

(ICT is one of three tests, others are maths -- in the sense of reading histograms and calculating averages -- and language):

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"How to use MS products"

The same applies in the colonies.

And naturally, the next time MS releases a new version, the revised placement of menu items will render all that painstaking memorisation useless.

Australian OS/2 zealot...

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Anonymous Coward

Title Title

ICT is taxpayer sponsored Microsoft product training, it creates no understanding of how software works only where M$ hide the functions.

I say bring back RSA typing for those that want to be typists and Computer Science for those that want to be more than just users.

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hiding functions

Yep once failed a section on an automated test in "IT" as it asked me to copy paste.

Ctrl+c ... computer gave me a fail

Ok go to edit menu as it is always there (showing my age before ribbon)... fail

I had failed my two attempts.

aparently I had to use the old toolbar and click on the icons.

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Paris Hilton

What else would you expect...

... When the blind are leading the blind? Most teachers in secondary schools know no more about computers than the students themselves, with the exception of those 1 day seminars they have on inset days.

Get some specialist teachers in there, who know what they are actually on about.

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School may have changed since your days.

There's very strong pressure on subject-qualified teachers now; the days of the physics teacher/nerd also doing ICT is mostly over...

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Unhappy

Not changed that much

My 12 year old daughter ended up, effectively, giving a lesson on Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/) because the teacher didn't have a clue on either the application or general programming principles.

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Trouble is

Anyone with decent skills in I(C)T isn't goign to want to teach a bunch of school kids for peanuts...

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no support

The problem is support. ICT is seen as a geeky subject, then when students get to university and cannot use stylesheets in word to format their thesis they fall over.

All other subjects expect ICT knowledge such as PE making movies of performances or Drama editting sequences. Music, Physics, even Art all need ICT skills. Having a curriculum run around spreadsheets and databases is stupid. At least the ICT iGCSE has a lot of practical information in there and actually applies to the modern world. It didnt help that the previous AQA chief examiner was a 60 year old maths tutor who simply used PCs to make spreadsheets. I wonder what those exams revolved around...

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interactive and multimedia technology

Interactive and multimedia technology across all lessons. Yeah, that's exactly what you need if you want the pupils to *learn* something in the lessons.

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FAIL

MS Office 101

or at least it was when i did GCSE ICT/DT in the tail end of the 90's. completely pointless basic word processing and very basic excel. It would be so much better if they changed it up to include some basic programming (what ever language, variables loops basic OO etc) they could even make it related to Jesus phones/androids and get students interested.

Throw in a bit of network theory (ISO model, basic tcp/ip) and you'd have kids with a bit more of a clue as to if they want to go into IT and not just think everyone in IT is a MS word jockey

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Computer Science

I think "ICT" (having taught it and know people that do) should be dropped and a proper Computer Science syllabus be added as an optional GCSE.

I learnt how to use Office at school and how to program VBA at A-level. It wasn't until Uni that I really got in to memory structure and OOP. I'd have loved proper CS courses at GCSE/A-level, but they just weren't/aren't there.

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Badgers

Sounds ideal, but

Anyone with those skills is either working in a job that doesn't require all the form filling and govt BS, or is teaching at Uni level.

They can't afford people who can teach that stuff. So they teach MS and trivial web design (using MS tools, so you don't get to understand HTML).

No idea how to fix this one.

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IT Angle

Nice report

Short and to the point and I quite agree with its conclusions. I note with interest the members of the Intellect Group (HP, Intel UK, Oracle UK, MS, Accenture, Logica, LinuxIT to name a few). These companies should at least know what IT is all about and want to recruit the best and brightest, rather than the "I can do spreadsheets me" ICT experts the UK school system churns out. They don't want to spend all the money retraining these people.

The question is: can Intellect Group get anyone with real influence to read it and change the curriculum?

Somewhat off topic, though. As the father of a 7 year old, you could easily take Intellect's report and global search-and-replace ICT with just about any subject area to accurately describe the education system in the UK.

Colin

Icon says it all: Where's the IT angle? Because it's definitely NOT in the UK school system.

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Boffin

teach logic, teach learning...

...meanwhile, back in the 80's my weekly college computing class was a 40 minute snooze to the dull drone of a computer technician... no-one learned anything. Fortunately, having taught myself BASIC at home as a teenager I not only got awarded full marks before handing in the final coursework or sitting the exam; but lots of experience teaching the rest of my classmates how to solve that weeks practical exercise.

It would seem that nothing much has changed in almost 30 years.

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It's the marking that's the problem

In order to enforce a curriculum and have measured 'standards' ICT (or cumputer studies as it was in my day) is getting killed.

The reason a class is asked to turn in near identical posters is because that's a lot easier to compare, mark, and show that we have reached a standard.

Children then become like dogs doing tricks - with little comprehension of why except they get a treat of approval at the end of it.

I wouldn't mind the MS Office stuff as people desperately need educating. The problem is that it is stuck in the 90's teaching bold, italic, underline, and font sizes rather than styles which amount to semantic markup. In excel people really need to understand how to construct a formula that matches a given equation. They need to understand how to aggregate data, use pivot tables etc. These are the things which will make you an invaluable employee.

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Happy

Sad but true

It was plain old IT when I did it . Showed me word processing,databases and spreadsheets,DTP etc . Fair enough I loved computers so it was all gravy to me . Was more shocked when doing it in college I knew more than the tutor who was oblivious to things like shortcut keys and thought the easiest way to open a file was open the application and then click file and browse for it . Very funny when you see the light of realisation dawn on someone that just double clicking the file itself is faster and they have been doing it the long way for years . Piqued my interest enough to want to go further though and get at the actual hardware underneath .

The problem now is most kids have an almost innate understanding of computers so traditional IT teaching needs to be updated to reflect this . The "This is the power button approach" wont cut it any more .

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stop calling it ICT

would help - I mean Information Communication Technology? Communication IS information so just call it IT - rather than use a redundant word... virtually nobody but schools call it ICT anyway

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Anonymous Coward

Unredundant. Also, nuance and shit.

(i) Information need not be communicated, and communications need not be informative.

(ii) Huh. One concept appears to be countable, the other not. Ponder on't.

(iii) Redundancy is good.

(iv) Can't remember the last time I heard anyone invoke either IT or ICT.

(v) Lazy taxonomies. We had orthography and logic in the ink age ...

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IT Angle

What's the pont?

As computers are now so enmeshed with our daily lives treating it as a separate subject is pointless. Loads of people drive these days but I've never seen a school with car mechanics or driving skills on the curriculum.

I don't see how it's so 'special', primary kids do a lot of stuff with computers and don't see it as anything other than 'normal'. Turtles have been replaced with Lego and programmable cars. Adding the term 'computer' tends to muddy things - let's start with adults instead. Let's begin by insisting that none of the devices at home are anything but computer-driven machines that we programme (albeit on a very simple level). "I don't know anythng about computers!" is the wail while they use the iPhone at work to set the recorder for telly. How many kitchens would fall silent if the computers were taken away? would anyone have central heating?

ICT needs to be dragged screaming in to the 20th century - I bet there are ICT courses that spend time discussing fax machines when the pupils will never use one, ever. (yes the 'fax machine' predates the telephone but so what?). Mobile data transfer is what they are familiar with, that and downloading 'codecs'.

This isn't a troll but how about even giving them Scratch to play with? - especially as it's free. (cue the 'you can't teach programing like that etc. etc.)

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Megaphone

comp sci

It's a shame that it's so MSFT sponsored, especially when really cool software like Scratch exists http://scratch.mit.edu/ (which my daughter could use at age 8) and when the basics of putting together a website really aren't difficult.

I mean, how hard would it be for every school to give every child who wanted one a subdomain on their school website, with reasonable Ts&Cs of course?

I got my first compsci training back in the early eighties at primary school - and at that point I was programming - in school - in Logo - to move a Turtle on the floor to draw circles - we were queueing up to have a go! i guess it was a golden age.

Seriously, create a new discipline of office skills, and use that to teach productivity suites. Get every ICT room a couple of Nabaztags, some Arduiono kits, or some other kind of programmable hardware, and get the kids to build things. Learn about software from hardware. You don't learn anything from nested if statements in Excel except that you don't want to do them, a fact which remains true for most software professionals!

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FAIL

upskilling?

I know the current curriculum may not be up to par but 'up-skilling' FFS.

"Our member companies tell us that they often have to spend considerable time up-skilling employees"

Yes. it's really called training or at least it used to be when investing in business wasn't just about buying a new machine. At one time companies took on apprentices and would 'up-skill' them for a considerable time until they were ready to take on the work. It's what companies are supposed to do to get the work force they want rather than whinge about how the lack of ready trained/fully qualified staff is holding back their business.

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Vic
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Re: upskilling?

> At one time companies took on apprentices

Yes, but few new employees *are* apprentices any more.

> It's what companies are supposed to do to get the work force they want

Sort of.

But when you're employing someone who's *supposed* to be trained already, it's something of a disappointment to find out they don't even know the basics of the job.

Apprentices are expected to have a lot to learn. Graduates and - even worse - seasoned professionals are supposed to have covered the bulk of it already.

Vic.

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But...

... they are not talking about graduates or professionals. They are talking about IT lessons in schools.

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Have they tried...

... turning it off and on again?

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