Feeds

back to article Comp Sci becomes 'fourth science' in English Baccalaureate

Education Minister Michael Gove has added computer science into the new English Baccalaureate as a "fourth science", putting it on a par with Physics, Biology and Chemistry, the Department of Education announced today. Computer Science is the only extra subject to make it onto the list of core academic subjects that comprise the …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Stop

NOT

As a computer scientist and software engineer I do have to be able to analyze the complexity of algorithms to know where I should focus my optimization efforts.

And the argument "that's just math and logic" is very silly indeed. All the core stuff of physics is also "just math and logic".

I have a software engineer collegue who has a math degree and I can attest he lacks some very important knowledge regarding algorithms, because mathematics apparently has a much different focus than CS. I could certainly educate him about that, and that would effectively be "math guy who added CS to his skills". CS is NOT a subset of a normal mathematics curriculum.

0
1
Stop

Re: NOT

More precisely my colleague knew "those MSFT hashtables are really slow". I debugged into them and found they are simply not proper hashtables, which automatically grow. That implies O(n) runtime if the number of buckets is lower than the number of elements to be stored.

I am not saying math people can't acquire that knowledge, it is jus that they were never really told about things like automatically growing hashtables and the assorted challenges. Neither does he know cryptology and how that can be leveraged for hash functions (yes, it matter tremendously at my current job to have the best possible hash functions).

0
2
FAIL

Plus

Regular Expressions

Context-Free Grammars and LL(1) and LR(1) Parsers, EBNF

Relational Theory

Balanced Trees

Are very much hard science and they are normally NOT part of mathematics curriculums. So how is CS a subset of mathematics again ??

0
0

Re: Plus

"So how is CS a subset of mathematics again ??"

Perhaps you should ask the likes of Dijkstra, Gries and Wirth. They have all made the argument (at least once) that computer science is indeed a subset of mathematics.

0
0

@JD: Re: "Plumbing"

I will forcefully argue that it IS a science if you can make cold-hard-provable statements like "you can't be faster than O(n*log2(n))

That doesn't make it any more "Science" than, for example, Economics is. It's logic and the occasional application of mathematics. Perhaps someone should point this out to that nice Mr. Gove.

0
0

Baby/bathwater

From the article: Tech companies aside, other employees have pressed for more general digital literacy too, saying that employees needed better computer skills.

Great though it'll be, we hope, to introduce proper academic computer science, let's not forget the above point. For instance, I hope computer/network/information security will be discussed, starting at the level of how it's not a great idea to put sensitive data onto an unencrypted USB stick and then lose it on the train, and moving on to questioning why people think they need USB sticks at all, even encrypted ones. That kind of thing. And, presumably, employers will still need people who know how to drive a word processor or a spreadsheet application (not necessarily or automatically Microsoft products).

1
0
Anonymous Coward

and another thing.

I am a parent of a child who is current going through their option decisions, and I have a couple (or maybe 3) comments - these are my opinions, so I expect disagreement to some, if not all, points.

1. Why is Geography or History on the list of ebac subjects - Business studies would be more useful in my opinion.

2. When will the government drop the currently policies on science subject selection - which is mad. Currently you can choose to do core 'double' science (Phy, Chem, Bio) which counts as a double exam OR do individual sciences (i.e. study each properly) - BUT if you you separate sciences you have to do all 3. You cannot do physics and chemistry without doing biology. What makes the gov't think that just because somebody likes chem/phys (or is good at them) it means they should also do biology - and vice-versa?

I asked this question at a recent parents evening as my child is going through their options, and the answer is that the gov't sees science as 1 subject ("it's like maths - you wouldn't let somebody do algebra without doing other maths subjects would you") - this was the quote from the teacher. If our own gov't (and it would seem some teachers) can't see the major difference between the sciences (and the subsequent careers) then what hope do we have. For the record, the question was asked to the science teachers themselves - they didn't see the irony that they had separate teachers for the different subjects.

As an aside I also object to mandatory RE - especially when they try to disguise it as 'philosophy and ethics' - even though there is diddly squat philosophy in the curriculum. Somebody also needs to tell the gov't the difference between philosophy and theology it would appear.

I welcome the addition of computer science, but would also like to give students the option of picking which sciences they want to do.

Rant over (but I feel better for it).

3
0
Bronze badge

Re: and another thing.

What's the betting that private schools won't bother with this crap? It is clearly not going to survive the Tories in government.

1
0

fsking computers.

1. Because Business Studies is a made up course that is basically accounting which parents push their kids into because they think it will make them into Alan Sugar when it really prepares them for nothing. Geography and History are actual subjects that are important. You need history (at least, some knowledge of it) in order to understand what is happening in the world and how to use sources to fact-check (important for business) and geography teaches population dynamics and where stuff is (also fairly important for business)

2. Combined science is a joke that teaches nothing useful in any of the subjects it claims to teach. It really does need to be split out. At GCSE level, physics has more in common with maths than chemistry and biology and someone interested in one may not necessarily be interested in the others. Completely agree students need to have the choice. As for the maths comment from that teacher, bollocks - I remember doing different bits of maths in different classes.

6
1

Re: and another thing.

They should just add RE to History and give it a true baptism by fire. Philosophy and ethics could go to a new subject Economics, Politics and International Studies.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: and another thing.

1. Because it is preferable to have studied History to avoid repeating past (and well known) mistakes in your future Businesses.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: and another thing.

In Canada, where private schools are rare and very very pricy, sales, business and investing are core subjects.

If the upper class wanted to keep the middle class down it would avoid having the middle class taught key business and investment skills.

The more ignorant we are, the easier it is for them to rip us off.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: and another thing.

1. So teach history of businesses, enterprise.

2. "Business is accounting" in the same way that "computer science is keyboarding." Your local mouse business course was a mouse course because it was designed that way, not because business is trivial.

0
0
Bronze badge
Pirate

Re: and another thing.

"1. So teach history of businesses, enterprise."

Back in the old says, that was part of GCE (yep, no S in those days!) History. We learned about the South Sea Bubble. It's a shame the bankers and sub-prime mortgage industry didn't do history.

0
0
Bronze badge
IT Angle

Ignoring the IT aspect for a second

This is going to be a disaster, if implemented as Gove wants.

Seventy something years ago, my mother did her General Certificate. That consisted of about eight papers, including arithmetic ('The Atlantic Ocean is a miles, b furlongs, c poles, d feet and e links wide. The Queen Mary crosses it in m days, n hours, o minutes and p seconds. What is her average speed?'), English, French and several others, fixed by the exam board. If she had failed a single paper, she would have failed her Certificate. Fortunately, she didn't and ended up as a teacher.

I did O-Levels, where the papers were more or less the same standard but I could fail French (so badly, it doesn't appear on my certificates) and still have an academic life thanks to A grade passes in everything else. I could choose, within the limits of the school's ability to find the teaching time, any subjects I wanted to do. Result: happiness... for everyone not stuck at a Secondary Modern doing CSEs.

With the ending of the 11+ in most counties, a single age 16 exam was clearly necessary. I understand and applaud the basic principle behind GCSE: if you can prove you know something, you get the exam points for it. It is not, as O-Levels were, a 'find the top x% of children in this subject' exam. So given increasing years of experience, it is not surprising that results increasingly improved.

It is also not surprising that Gove doesn't like them. But rather than - as he claims - going back to O-Levels (something he probably did not take himself, being educated in Scotland) he's actually going back to the General Certificate: fail one - because you thought Newton developed the laws of Thermodynamics, say - and you fail your Bacc.

Suggested questions for a new multi-subject exam:

Put the following into an ordered 'List of Death': Cameron, Hague, Osborne, May, Duncan Smith, Grayling, Gove, Pickles, Hunt, Warsi. Give reasons. (Two hours 59 minutes, extra paper is available.)

Eric Pickles ensured that councils which want to raise Council Tax by 2% have to call a referendum, and was surprised that several chose to raise it by 1.99%. Just how stupid can you be and still be a Cabinet Minister? (1 minute.)

6
1
Anonymous Coward

Subjects

Religious Studies and Music did not make the list.

Oh noes, what will teh wrld doe nows?

0
0

Must this be hard?

I wonder whether CompSci might be easier to teach kids than software engineering or whatever, in the same way that F=ma is easier to teach than building a rocket.

I'd really rather see a physical Turing machine in the classroom than a Raspberry Pi.

This, for instance, is all kinds of cool....

http://www.legoturingmachine.org/

1
1
Stop

Re: Must this be hard?

If they did CS with the same diligence and thoroughness as math, a foreign language or physics (from bottom to top), they could do a lot over the course of six years. S

For some strange reason, many assume that CS can be taught in a flimsy, improvised way. As in "just surf the spanish internet to learn spanish".

1
0
Stop

Re: Must this be hard?

And pupils could do lots of things using TTL gates after being taught some elementary electro-physics. Over the course of two years, they could learn boolean algebra, build/design a seven-segment display system and finally design/build an adder circuit out of all that.

Going further down that road they could build a Z80 computer and learn assembly language. It is all doable if the teachers were properly educated and enough time alloted.

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: Must this be hard?

"Going further down that road they could build a Z80 computer and learn assembly language."

That was 1st year Beng level stuff back in my day.

(They switched to 68000 no long after.)

Wirewrap anyone?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Must this be hard?

With the exception of building a computer and learning assembly (which is very definitely first year UG stuff), that's exactly the kind of content you already find in a decent computing GCSE syllabus - OCR's GCSE Computing, for example, requires students to be able to read a logic word problem and describe it in terms of logic functions. The problem is the syllabus is a bit schizophrenic. A Level Computing is no harder and no more rigorous than GCSE Computing, and neither of them are considered particularly rigorous subjects to begin with (put against GCSE or AS/A2 Physics, which is in some cases [OCR] excellent). More to the point, very few schools have the staff or resources to properly teach either course. Only a handful of CS grads become teachers each year (literally single figures), and while Gove is now offering a £20k golden hello for CS grads with a 2:1 or better, put against the wages offered by consultancy/banking graduate development programs that's still shit.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Must this be hard?

You would be surprised to learn that all this stuff is taught at University but only theoretically. If a graduate is asked to wire up a adder circuit then they wouldn’t have a clue.

Practical work such as wiring up a micro-controller that uses a voltage comparator to determine light levels and then turns on a led is not even taught. They would not know how to read the data-sheet for photo-diode. Most graduates would connect a led without a current limiting resistor damaging the components. The teaching must be complemented by practical lab work to be of any use in the real world.

The only practical lab work taught at my university was wiring up bridge rectifiers and circuits to verify kirchoffs law. Extensive practical labs focused on simple basic historical circuits. Modern useful technology that would engage and inspire students was not implemented in the practical labs. Much is to be desired by the quality of teaching in the UK if we are to build up enterprises to compete with the rest of the world in the field of technology.

0
0

All aboard the Comp Sci silli-bus!

Here we go ... computer science as specified by a load of bureaucrats, publishers and Google.

Contrary to what has already been said, at this level computer science should involve syntax, grammar, logical and methodical programming, problem solving, programming concepts, basic electronic circuits and logic and all of those basics. Once they are under the hood you can teach programmers or hardware engineers using the formal grounding.

Teaching some little herbert how to write an app for an iPhone and you have someone who can write another nameless app for an iphone but teach them methodical and logical programming and they may learn enough to look at everything and find something they're both interested in and really good at ...

0
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Re: All aboard the Comp Sci silli-bus!

"at this level computer science should involve syntax, grammar, logical and methodical programming, problem solving, programming concepts, basic electronic circuits and logic and all of those basics."

That was all in the GCE O level Computer Studies syllabus back in 1980.

0
0
Bronze badge

What do they churn out?

From the looks of it, all we will ever see are some script kiddies.

An engineering background (putting things in practical use) should be part of something.

Oh, well.....

1
0
Bronze badge
Holmes

Flashback to 1840 and the addition of writing to the ciriculumn

Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years... Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use verbal communication by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write plays like Shakespeare.

By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in in the seminars of Plato.

In other words, you can teach kid oils painting at age 11 but that won't make give us a nation of 16 year-old Picassos.

Basically we're back to outsiders (including IT industry executives) assuming what we do is trivial, that their neighbour's kid could do it, and that with more widespread training we could be paid little more than minimum wage.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.