back to article IT knowledge is as important as Maths, says UK.gov

Digital literacy must become a core subject in schools – just like maths – in order to mitigate the effects of mass job automation, a House of Lords report has warned. The Digital Skills Committee said the "UK is at a tipping point" in addressing its "significant digital skills shortage". It said this was particularly …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great...

    More powerpoint lessons :(

    1. Lusty Silver badge

      Re: Great...

      Why will anyone need Powerpoint, if their boss was replaced with a 4 line script there will be nobody to present to. Given that we are in the process of replacing the vast majority of IT workers with automation this seems a very short sighted policy. Of course, government could easily be replaced with a secure phone app where the public votes directly on issues so they may be the first to go in the new regime. The only question is how to ensure the public are informed before they can click the voting buttons. Perhaps a short online test :)

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Great...

      Yes, teachers and schools really do believe that office admin tasks, if done in a Microsoft Office app, qualify as IT and Computing. When visiting on a parent evening, don't tell their IT teacher that you are an IT professional with a related degree. They go coy.

      Luckily at my son's school there are some decent non-teachers who go in and do the proper stuff under the "STEM Lecture" theme.

      1. turnip handler

        Re: Great...

        " an IT professional with a related degree."

        I like the qualification of IT professional. Unfortunately there are a large amount of IT professionals who only really have knowledge of looking at PowerPoint slides and do not have any interest in IT, technology or sorting algorithms.

    3. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Great...

      Don't worry Baroness Fox of Other Peoples Money (lost) will be put on the job. Groan

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Stop

    Surely-

    It is time to drop this 'Digital' bollocks?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "significant digital skills shortage", more like "we need more workers in order to reduce wages".

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      ""we need more workers in order to reduce wages"

      Nothing much has changed in the 50 years since I graduated.

  4. TwoWolves
    WTF?

    Then stop killing the industry

    Then maybe the government should start penalizing businesses that outsource to low-wage economies and stop allowing a flood of low-grade immigrants coming to work here cratering the ability to live on an IT wage and pay your inflated mortgages.

    IT pay has been static for over ten years, now they wonder why nobody wants to get into the business?

    1. wikkity

      Re: IT pay has been static for over ten years

      As have those in most other trades and industries

  5. leon clarke

    So, would the new cabinet minister for the digital agenda need to have a post A-Level qualification relevant to IT?

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Ahhhh, you don't understand how government works.

    2. launcap Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      > 'post-A level qual in IT'

      Or even better, some real-world experience of IT.. And I don't mean "helping little Jonny join his new tablet to the home wifi"..

  6. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Or more bods who know how to install a WordPress theme (yeah, thanks for that)

  7. Electron Shepherd

    Misquoting for click-bait?

    El Reg: Baroness Morgan, chair of the committee, said from an early age digital literacy must be given as much importance as numeracy and literacy.

    That's not what the report actually says. It actually says "digital and technology skills should be considered complementary to numeracy and literacy."

    In my dictionary, complementary does not mean "has equal priority".

    El Reg:: "The report also suggests that the internet is given the same importance as any other utility"

    Once again. That's not what the report says. It actually says The Government should make it its ambition to ensure universal access for the entire population.

    That's quite a long way from suggesting that fresh drinking water and not dying from hypothermia are no more important than getting some Facebook updates.

    1. 's water music Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Misquoting for click-bait?

      El-Reg?

      Say it ain't so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Misquoting for click-bait?

        It ain't so. Of course, I'm not it in any way affiliated with El Reg, but since you wanted to hear that, I thought I'd just make something up that would appeal. Journalism, eh.

  8. Peter Christy

    So how come so many government (and opposition!) MPs are not only computer illiterate, but apparently proud of it? Does this make them, by their own standards, unfit to govern?

    1. Alien8n Silver badge
      Alien

      "Does this make them [...] unfit to govern"

      Nope, the very fact that they want to govern in the first place makes them unfit to govern.

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      @Peter Christy

      No. It makes them representatives of the Great Unwashed, especially of the 50% of the GU who are of below average ability. Er, that's democracy, said by some to be the least worst form of government.

  9. Truth4u

    today we are going to learn about IT

    I have provided everyone in the class with a wallet full of monopoly money. Now we are going to practice how to use computers. Form a line at my desk and hand over all of the money in the wallet and I will give you a white box with an Apple logo. It is important for you all to have these Skillz later in life.

    1. Electron Shepherd

      Re: today we are going to learn about IT

      Tomorrow, we are going to learn how to program. This will consist of the following modules:

      1) Opening notepad

      2) Entering 5 lines of HTML

      3) Saving the file with a .htm extension

      4) Opening the file in a web browser

      Once you have mastered these skills, the politicians of the day will think you are a programmer. Extra marks will be available for those who use special tags to make at least three words bold or italic on the page. Changing colours and typefaces is an advanced topic and will not be covered in this course.

      1. Truth4u

        Re: today we are going to learn about IT

        Next week the lesson is on open standards

        I need you to prepare by downloading openstandards.doc onto your Zunes

      2. BongoJoe

        Re: today we are going to learn about IT

        Will the use of the <marquee> tag earn extra credits towards that David Beckham studies degree?

      3. Alien8n Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: today we are going to learn about IT

        1999/2000, Open University course at Bath University. I ended up teaching half the class web design as I had more experience than the lecturer who was teaching that module.

        My page was a bit more advanced than "changing colours and typefaces" though :)

  10. Little Mouse
    Meh

    Yet another Digital Agenda for schools?

    Unfortunately the actual implementation of such noble aims tends to fall a little short of what any reasonable person might consider "adequate". At least, that's been the case for the past 30 years or so. Has something changed?

  11. codejunky Silver badge

    Meh

    Surely the way to ensure a important knowledge and progress is made is to keep it out of the hands of the public sector and so out of the hands of these government types? I have yet to find a teacher who thinks these meddling know nothings having direct influence over day to day running is a good idea.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the committee doubted whether teachers currently have the ability to deliver relevant digital skills."

    This is the crux of the problem, but it runs deeper than that.

    For many years, the government paid teachers peanuts and they got monkeys. So they increased the salaries and now they've got well-paid monkeys. There are some very good and hard working teachers, but they are outnumbered 10 to1 by utter morons.

    The teaching vocation needs to turned into a profession. It needs to be purged of low-grade arts graduates who are quite frankly not fit to teach our children. I'm talking about the militant kind who go on strikes and marches when asked to teach times tables, and the touchy-feely kind who mollycoddle the kids and get all upset when asked test the little darlings in order to monitor their progress.

    There is no point in asking these worthless assholes to teach digital skills. They don't have the intelligence for it. That's why the current initiative, admirable though it is, of teaching kids programming is doomed to failure.

    The limit of the teachers digital ability is posting misspelled drivel on facebook. The kids can figure out how to post it on facebook and twitter and the teacher thinks it's wonderful how clever they are to do that.

    /rant

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      ...The teaching vocation trade needs to turned into a profession...

      FTFY

    2. Glenturret Single Malt

      "the committee doubted whether teachers currently have the ability to deliver relevant digital skills."

      There are many schools currently where some teachers do not have the ability to deliver adequate mathematical and scientific skills.

  13. John Robson Silver badge

    Any skills learnt

    will be outdated by the time the exam is taken.

    Any chance of learning the underlying theories was lost when politricks got involved. They couldn't tell a reference from a pointer.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Any skills learnt

      John, most modern programmers couldn't tell you what a pointer is anyway.

      Alas learning to program has got away from learning to program.

      1. launcap Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Any skills learnt

        > John, most modern programmers couldn't tell you what a pointer is anyway

        Let alone a core block or forward-chain reference on a 4K disk block! Essential skills (when doing assembler on an IBM mainframe..)

        Yes - sarcasm. Because lots of languages don't use the specific technology that you are referring to. Just like they don't use Entry Control Blocks and core-store..

        1. Steve I

          Re: Any skills learnt

          "assembler on an IBM mainframe.."

          You get an upvote for that alone. I thought it was just me.

          When I realised that all this "Pass by reference or pass by value" bollocks was just a new way of saying "does the register contain the value or the address of the value?" I mentally slapped my forehead.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Any skills learnt

            "When I realised that all this "Pass by reference or pass by value" bollocks was just a new way of saying "does the register contain the value or the address of the value?" I mentally slapped my forehead."

            It doesn't mean that. You need to get down off that pedestal and go and learn about some other programming languages.

            PS Your pedestal says "twat".

            1. Steve I

              Re: Any skills learnt

              "It doesn't mean that. You need to get down off that pedestal and go and learn about some other programming languages"

              Enlighten me then if I've misunderstood. What does it mean?

              By the way - do you think real programmers don't use 'goto'?

            2. Steve I

              Re: Any skills learnt

              I never mentioned a pedestal. If you want to put people on pedestals because you feel threatened by their skills or experience, then that's up to you. But don't do it just to insult them.

          2. David Beck

            New Way?

            I learned about "passing by reference or value" in 1967, using those words. If that's the "new way" then what was the "old way"?

            1. Steve I

              Re: New Way?

              I was born in '67 :-) Been doing MVS/OS390/zOS assembler since '87 and never heard the phrase in connection with it before. Just shows that there's nothing new...

  14. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    I see this differently

    Being able to use a computer has become just about as important as being able to read and write. However, in this context, the requirement is to be able to use a computer, not manage it.

    What is needed, IMHO, is computer literacy in primary schools. After that, it should just become a part of other lessons, just as it has become an integral part of most jobs.

    IT lessons could then focus on more advanced topics than using Word and Excel, just as English lessons so not stick with just how to read and write.

    If we continue to teach word processing and spreadsheets as a separate subject, people will continue to see computing as separate, which is not how the world of work operates. A computer is just a tool (as are most users, FNAR FNAR), just like a pen and paper.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I see this differently

      "What is needed, IMHO, is computer literacy in primary schools"

      Top plan. Perhaps someone (maybe the BBC) should start a computer literacy project. Perhaps they could even 'make' their own computer to help in this project, and widely distribute it to schools. A TV series would help too, I'd deffo suggest 'Computer World' by kraftwerk for the theme tune. How about an owl for a logo?

  15. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Headmaster

    It does seem rather wonderful

    that there is no definition in the reports I have heard and seen saying just what 'IT' means...

    I'm old enough to remember being offered (and turning down) 'Computing' lessons at school which would have been more properly entitled 'Data Entry Clerk' lessons.

    These days the equivalent seems to still be Data Entry Clerk except that instead of a VT102, it's all Excel and Word (other office suites are available, but need not apply).

    Whereas IT skills covers everything from basic physics/electronics through to network topology and queueing theory, RF distribution models, IC design, schematic capture and layout design, construction methods, logic, interface design, knowledge of a whole bunch of protocols and programming languages, formal proof, database management, distributed systems, intrusion detection *and* microsoft solitaire. Seems a bit mean to expect kids to learn all that at the same time they're failing to learn English and Maths.

    1. launcap Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: It does seem rather wonderful

      > Whereas IT skills covers everything from [long list that I agree with]

      And (equally important) the ability to problem-solve rather than just regurgitate facts that you have memorised but don't understand..

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: It does seem rather wonderful

        "And (equally important) the ability to problem-solve rather than just regurgitate facts that you have memorised but don't understand"

        Isn't that what we've got stackoverflow for?

      2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: It does seem rather wonderful

        @launcap

        Indeed. There's a difference between learning to drive, learning how to operate the machines that make a car, knowing the metalurgy to deal with what a car is made of, knowing the regulations under which a car should operate, and indeed learning to strip an engine and replace the main bearings.

        I strongly suspect that what is being touted as 'IT skills' is firmly in the 'learning to drive' class and to be honest that should be in the learning to write and spell, and maths at the 'adds, takeaways, timeses, and guzintas' level. Though looking at current GCSE, that's where they are coming *out* of secondary school, while I can't help feeling it should be what they know on the way *in*.

        Anyone else notice the 'hinderance' (sic) from the Head of GDS User Research's tweet on the GOV.UK. thread?

  16. Ralara

    My IT classes...

    in high school consisted of using ClarisWorks.

    I also got suspended once for "hacking" the school network and "crashing the systems". The IT manager said he had to stay in all weekend to fix it.

    All I tried to do was copy a 50mb video file from a network share to my local folder as the connection was too slow to stream it.

    I wonder if IT standards have improved since then.

    1. Alien8n Silver badge

      Re: My IT classes...

      Only hacking we did at school was cutting the slots out of one side of the floppy disks to make them double sided. Not one kid at our school ever paid for the double sided disks after it was discovered that all disks were actually double sided and all you were paying for was the number of holes in the plastic casing...

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: My IT classes...

        I remember doing that with the five and a half inch floppies which, in those days, cost a fortune.

    2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Re: My IT classes...

      I had two experiences with IT at school.

      The first was exemplified by a dispute between myself and the "IT teacher" (actually a French teacher they drafted in for the lessons). During one lesson, we were told we could earn extra marks by answering a question. If we knew the answer, we were to go to her desk when called and answer.

      The question: "What is a RAM disk?"

      I answered with words along the lines of "A virtual disk emulated in the computer's RAM". She replied, "No, it's Random Access Memory". A short debate (cough) occurred between us over definitions involved, ending with me being told I wasn't welcome in her class because I was not prepared to learn.

      The second was much different. This was later, and all the computer labs had been upgraded to PCs. I grew bored with the endless stream of typing exercises and mind-numbing spreadsheet tasks asked of us. I therefore set about, erm, unlocking certain locked down features within the NT4 environment. I gained access to Explorer, messaging clients, games and several others which were (supposedly) unavailable. All very trivial, and I never did anything even remotely malicious, but it passed the time.

      The IT teacher (actually a Physics teacher, but at least he had a basic grasp of computing) caught me, and took me to see the sysadmin. We chatted for a while and, instead of punishing me for "hacking", he did the sensible thing: Asked me for help. I proceeded to lock down everything I had discovered the correct way, and in return he allowed me an admin account (to help him in future, not to install and play games *cough*). We became friends, and still are to this day.

      1. Custard Fridge

        Re: My IT classes...

        The French teacher was probably embarrassed at her lack of in-depth IT knowledge but reacted poorly as a result. There is a good example of a teacher having to teach something that is not their core subject - this is not the fault of the teacher but is a lack of teaching resource / money.

        The Physics teacher made the right call taking you to the expert and not just bollocking you there and then. The sysadmin was of course a decent IT professional who knew a good resource when they saw one...

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: My IT classes...

          The French teacher was probably embarrassed at her lack of in-depth IT knowledge but reacted poorly as a result. There is a good example of a teacher having to teach something that is not their core subject - this is not the fault of the teacher but is a lack of teaching resource / money.

          I agree with the reason (she was embarrassed), but not the conclusion.

          A good teacher would realise she was out of her depth and learn from someone with greater knowledge of the subject matter. Therefore it was the fault of the teacher. I have had several teachers whose knowledge or ability in a particular, specialist subject was less than that of a student in their class. All but the worst responded well to corrections made in a respectful manner.

          I will readily admit that I handled the situation badly when she would not accept that she was wrong, and argued the toss. At that point she had no choice but to punish me, as I wasn't respecting her authority. However, she should have nipped it in the bud before that by accepting her mistake while I was still being respectful.

  17. Alien8n Silver badge
    Facepalm

    First update the syllabus

    My daughter was doing IT at school until she dropped off the course to concentrate on her maths and English. She's perfectly computer literate and knows exactly how a PC works and even what's needed to build her own PC. Which is more than her teacher seems capable of doing as the coursework she was bringing home kept insisting that the CPU of the PC was the hard drive and the hard drive was where the RAM was.

  18. batfastad

    Baron(ess)?\?

    And when Baroness Morgan talks, you better listen. Because she knows her sh*t on this stuff.

    Wait... who?

  19. DreadPirateRobot

    I advised students I taught (I was science, physics mostly) that were interested in IT and computing to study sciences and maths NOT IT at school.

    Problem solving is taught in sciences and maths, not in IT. IT lessons show a student how to mail merge (advanced topic), how to make a basic website (CSS is A-Level content), not how to diagnose a network connection fault.

    The school I was at offered a programming club, great I thought - I will go along and help out as I did programming on my degree. The club was 3 kids being told by their IT teacher that coding is dragging boxes into order, selecting items from a drop down list and seeing the result play out. (Scratch).

    I offered to teach them some actual coding once they got the ideas of loops, ifs etc grounded from that. He flat out rejected it saying that it would lead to them becoming hackers.

    We need better courses and the teachers able to teach them in place for this to work.

    I for one, will not be going back to teaching. Not to teach science, not to teach maths and not to teach Microsoft Office for Teens (also known as How to beat a web proxy and dodge the teacher 101)

    1. wikkity

      RE: offered a programming club

      Ok, I don't know what age the kids were but I beleive anyone dismissing Scratch as a learning aid to introdcutory programming is either elitist or ignorant. Scratch gives kids a chance to develop skills in problem solving and communicating ideas, essential skills for any software development and many other areas. In my experience (I run a Code Club at a primary school, 10-20 kids depending on weather/what else is happening) it works well and those kids have no trouble in moving onto python as they progress. Kids starting with python tend to struggle more as they are battling arcane rules of syntax AND problem solving at the same time.

      Whether you consider this real programming is irrelevant, they aren't coding buisness rules that a mega corparation depends on or control systems for an aircraft. They are learning. Is "dragging and dropping" a few blocks together to pilot a rocket around the screen really any different from using logo to move a turtle about or even a BigTrac? Do people really think that physically typing a move command teaches anything more than dragging a block that has the word move written on it?

      Scratch is a first step for normal kids, for it to be as accessible to every student it has to be conceptually intuative and a bit of fun always helps. It's certainly not best suited for those who like many of us here that were taking video recorders apart and writing machine code for z80s. Without accessible learning strategies coding will remain a niche skill, only those who would naturally discover it will continue to do so, others will be put off at the frustration of cryptic error messages due a semi-colon missing at the end of a class (c++) or wrong indentation (python).

      Many people often state they should use X or Y language, occasionally citing that that language is desirable in industry. My first programming was basic on a zx81 before I started lower level coding. I was writing basic programs on paper over 14 months before I got my first computer (parents could not afford one when I first asked for one as an xmas present). Presumably I should be scoffed at and it pointed out that using basic was a waste of my time, I should have used my time learning something more practical. I've discussed this more than once on here, but learning to develop software is not about learning a languages syntax but learning to solve problems AND communicate your solution.

      > We need better courses and the teachers able to teach them in place for this to work.

      Yes we do, what is apparant however that relying on people happy to turn down a well paid career and teach is not going to give you the best choice of candidates in sufficent quantities. Having good intentioned but essentialy random lessons centered around what a software developer beleives to be important will unlikley to be any better than a teacher with no real idea of the subject but who knows how to teach. Something like Code Club helps fill the gap, it provides education in a well thoughtout and structured way, the teachers become involved and you get the useful contributions from both parties.

      If people reading this do think teachers need a hand teaching this stuff please consider running a Code Club. Note, apart form running a code club I have nothing to do with the organisation other than being registered with them and using their materials, I certianly do not speak for them, the above is my opinion.

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Re: RE: offered a programming club

        Ok, I don't know what age the kids were but I beleive anyone dismissing Scratch as a learning aid to introdcutory programming is either elitist or ignorant.

        He did say:

        IT lessons show a student how to mail merge (advanced topic), how to make a basic website (CSS is A-Level content), not how to diagnose a network connection fault.

        Therefore I would assume he was teaching in a high school.

        I agree that Scratch is good for an introduction, but as long as the kid is old enough (and they are by high school) they should be taught to actually programme. If they did not get the intro at primary level, fine, introduce them with Scratch, but do not leave it there. Move on to a programming language as soon as they are ready.

        Scratch introduces the basics of programming in a fun and accessible way. It cannot replace coding, though.

        I offered to teach them some actual coding once they got the ideas of loops, ifs etc grounded from that. He flat out rejected it saying that it would lead to them becoming hackers.

        He sounds like an ignorant SOB. That is why we need real "computing teachers", people who understand computers and programming and treat it as a specialist subject, just like Maths or English. The problem is that those who do understand can earn a lot more in the real world, so we get the French teacher who knows how to use Word teaching IT.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: RE: offered a programming club

          "Scratch introduces the basics of programming in a fun and accessible way. It cannot replace coding, though."

          Scratch lets you learn about variables and conditional logic, without having to worry about syntax errors or organising multiple files. If you are teaching at primary level, that's a simplification well worth making. Funnily enough, Scratch was created by researchers who wanted to target that age group.

          At secondary level, syntax and files aren't going to give you the same level of grief, so you might as well use a more powerful language. On the other hand, that language needs to have an easy way of delivering visually appealing output, because most of your class aren't going to be interested in writing a program that prints a set of log tables.

        2. Diogenes

          Re: RE: offered a programming club

          I use Scratch with years 7 - 9, coupled with the excellent CS Unplugged resources - Year 9 "Apps" last week were coding sorts in scratch and comparing the performance of various sorts. Indeed I believe some unis use scratch or kodu to teach basic computer programming concepts. (after my year 12s do their trial HSC, I will use Kodu to introduce concepts of object orientedness)

          Now that they have the basic idea of sequence, decisions & iteration and events, I will be moving them on to AppInventor, then next stop for the brighter kids Android Studio.

          I learnt the hard way kids do not have the patience to type move, and get mightly p****d off/discouraged because the compiler is too fussy - why is aNumber not the same as anumber or Anumber

  20. Chris G Silver badge

    35%

    So we are looking at something like upwards of 7 millions jobs disappearing with automation, the newly digitally trained 7 million will be doing what with their skills? Automating more jobs?

    Maybe the government should also be encouraging the growth of other industries as well so that even allowing for more and more jobs being automated there will be growing industries to provide work. Unless of course robots are going to do all the work and humans can sit back with a robobutler and oversee everything from their smart phone with their digital educations.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: 35%

      Those 7 million will be doing something more productive, as Tim Worstal has been trying to explain on and off in his columns for a while. We have (as he pointed out most recently) gone in just a couple of centuries from employing 99% of the population in agriculture to employing 1%. Nobody now wants all those "peasant" jobs back. Nearly all of us have found something else to do and even the unemployed are better off for it.

  21. Ilmarinen
    Devil

    I'm from the Government, I'm here to help you

    "According to the committee, the government is not doing enough..."

    If it were any ordinary bunch of fools we could just chuckle and then ignore them. Unfortunately, these particular fools actually do run the country. Doomed, we are.

    (And anyone who uses the phrase "tipping point" deserves corrective surgery)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Show us your medals....

    So, Baroness Morgan, chair of this committe let's have a look.......

    Degree in Geography from Durham, followed by a Kings london PGCE.4 (count them) 4 years as a teacher. Labour researcher / flunky for John Smith / Anthony Blair. Enobled. Minister of state for women.

    Directorships....

    Olympic deliverance commitee. Carphone Warehouse. Southern Cross healthcare (you'll remember them from Panorama). Talk Talk. Ofsted (she was 'non-reappointed' after one term in office there).

    So, as usual, I ask the rhetorical question : Are there no IT experts in the legislature?

    1. Shrimpling

      Re: Are there no IT experts in the legislature?

      Claire Perry?

  23. phil dude
    Boffin

    free markets etc...

    The problem is the free market says that decent teachers are competing with industry for the best talent.

    The problem is that industry is one of the lowest common denominator.

    The least amount of pay for most qualified person; this is what drives education.

    There are very good TED talk(s) by Ken Robinson.

    If you like cartoons (!) there is the RSA Animate version.

    A bit like the whole music/film industry, there is far more content that a person could possibly experience.

    Education is the same way, but the model of the past is creating a huge disparity between those children with varying degrees of autodidactism.

    We need to teach how to learn by boot strapping. That's what the Maths, Chem, Bio, Physics, English are for. I would propose that computing should be taught as varying degrees of formal methods with the goal of teaching the principles of problem formulation, approximation and solving. And yes, no child should see Windows/MacOS until they are in HE - that is like trying to teach classical music based on the works of the Spice Girls.

    Unfortunately the Govt and Big Biz just wants cheap labour that can operate a till/spreadsheet/website.

    Watch the talk, it is uplifting. Govt policy, not so much.

    P.

  24. Nobby.uk

    1 year on... Can Lottie Dexter code yet?!?

    Just realised that it is 1 year on since Lottie Dexter was on newsnight explaining....

    "I'm going to put my cards on the table," she replied. "I can't code. I've committed this year to learn to code." "A year!" said Paxman, incredulously. "Well," she explained, "you can do very little in a short space of time." A few minutes later, however, she explained to an increasingly incredulous Paxo that teachers (who are the prime target of Year of Code) would be able to "pick it up in a day".

    So then Lottie... can you code yet??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1 year on... Can Lottie Dexter code yet?!?

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/25/year_of_code_chief_quits/

      As you can pick it up in a day (at least to a good enough standard to teach it anyways) I'm guessing she found it way, way too unchallenging, hence she got bored and moved on. Oddly, she also went off twitter at about the same time. Great loss to the twattersphere.

      Last I saw of her, she was spad-ing for 'rising Tory star' Matty 'half-hour' Hancock, who, I understand, also likes to make himself look a bit of a cock in interviews, I hear he humiliated himself on the Today programme last year.

      That was some time ago, so she could be anywhere really. I can confirm she is currently not under my desk, which is a bit of a shame. For her.

  25. Nick London
    Childcatcher

    Teaching maths does not lead to a numeracy.

    Whilst we teach reading and writing not philology (go on look it up) we still try and teach primary children mathematics. It is a hobby horse of mine as we end up with children who are literate but in many cases innumerate.

    I am an engineer by education and calling and it boggles my mind how many people fail to grasp the simplest concepts in arithmetic, geometry and algebra in spite of apparently learning maths for a minimum of 12 years from from reception to GCSE.

    We could end up in the same situation with digital literacy, thank you Electron Shepherd for pointing out what the committee actually said.

    I suspect that if and when digital literacy is introduced into teacher training, the lecturers will eschew anything "difficult" and choose soft touchy feely aspects as happened with "New Maths" forty years ago.

    My better half is a teaching assistant in Year 2 ( 6 to 7 year olds ) and the curriculum currently requires them to cover "coding". I don't believe what they are doing is of any use at all. It is too facile, to early in their intellectual development and as far as I can see fails to provide any insight into programming. Better by far would be to make the foundations of arithmetic rock solid now and build on these foundations to develop numeracy and digital literacy when the children are ready for it.

    1. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      Re: Teaching maths does not lead to a numeracy.

      See my point about autodidactism above and the videos about current educational models killing creativity.

      One of the major problems about computing vs the other natural sciences is that it has evolved in conjunction with the technology of the day and is a mixture of arbitrary choices and logical deductions.

      Writing a program to sort numbers, say, then analyse it and propose improvements. Perhaps this is the sort of thing children should be taught?

      For example, binary search is incredibly simple and for scientific codes, if you can convert a problem in a sorted list you *know* it can be solved in n log n (typically). But building a machine to implement the algorithm using generic components. E.g. have students labelled , sort themselves using different rules like line dancing. Video it, collect times etc...

      That's one example of a general problem in logic, maths and computing that I think would be simple enough to teach at middle school.

      How about a core curriculum of these types of problems that get assembled up through the years?

      With the proliferation of mobile phones, consoles etc.. there is absolutely no point teaching children how to use interfaces - they are bombarded with them.

      But the underlying ideas, logic and mechanisms seems a good place to start.

      P.

  26. Syntax Error

    i think Dave could do with a few lessons on IT especially encryption.

  27. Dan Paul

    The problem with "Education" is the system.

    The whole "Education" system is broken. Even the idea of a fixed "Curriculum" is out of touch with reality. The people who make decisions about what is taught, often don't have a clue about what skills are needed by industry. We can no longer afford this disconnect.

    Even the idea of "graduation" is obsolete. Anything you learn in Information Technology (and many other technologies) is already out of date (or favor) by the time you graduate.

    But the first and most important factor is "What interests & skills does the student exhibit?"

    Not all students are cut out for IT, just as not all students want to be mechanics or educators or doctors.

    Let's look at the student and determine what course of education will provide the best use of resources for the student. Industry needs to pony up it's share as specialized skill sets can often only be taught by the companies that use them. The "apprenticeship" method comes to mind.

    Like it or not, those students that don't give a damn about learning anything, only serve to disrupt the ones that do. They don't deserve the same resources. We need to concentrate our limited efforts on those who actually care to learn.

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Re: The problem with "Education" is the system.

      But the first and most important factor is "What interests & skills does the student exhibit?"

      I do not think that this should be the guiding factor in early education.

      Primary education should be as broad as possible, teaching about as many subjects as possible. The students need to be given the opportunity to experience as many things as possible, so that they can figure out what interests them and what they are good at.

      This broad base should continue in high school, with a small amount of choice and specialisation offered, until the student reaches GCSE. At this point, they can specialise more. They have the solid, broad base, as well as more understanding of their own skills and preferences, and some idea of what they will need for any career they go into.

      After this, if they continue in education, they can specialise still further. But all the while, they will have had the broad base on which to build their decisions.

      Like it or not, those students that don't give a damn about learning anything, only serve to disrupt the ones that do. They don't deserve the same resources. We need to concentrate our limited efforts on those who actually care to learn.

      Now while I agree with the sentiment, I do not think it right to (basically) abandon someone who "doesn't want to learn". I knew a few like this at school. They disrupted the class, and made my life hell. The sad thing is, they were almost always the kids from poorer backgrounds, with parents who thought education was a waste of time. Some were actually pretty intelligent, but they followed their parents' and friends' attitudes. It would be a crying shame to chuck them in the bin just because they lack a decent upbringing.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The problem with "Education" is the system.

        "The sad thing is, they were almost always the kids from poorer backgrounds, with parents who thought education was a waste of time."

        This is one of the core problems. If parents and their communities in general form an environment where kids aren't encouraged to get on the schools will have an uphill problem. Their first task, more important than teaching literacy, numeracy or anything else must be to teach the kids that this stuff will be within their grasp and worth grasping.

  28. bollos

    "35 per cent of UK jobs are at risk of being automated over the next 20 years."

    ..and this is why we don't need more immigration.

    we didn't need it 30 years ago and we havn't needed it ever since.

  29. Justicesays

    Maybe not everyone can learn to program?

    Some research throws doubt on the idea that everyone is capable of learning programming effectivly.

    http://www.eis.mdx.ac.uk/research/PhDArea/saeed/paper1.pdf

    Although I guess a good grounding could at least help people understand what programmers do.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What does that even mean?

    Digital Skills... what a load of... [fill as you see fit]

    What does that even mean? Does the committee have any clue what they are talking about?

    One thing is certain: Today's kids (including my soon-to-be-born daughter) are likely to have better "Digital Skills" than most teachers long before they hit the school yard. They grow up with these things and will figure out the basics naturally.

  31. David Lewis 2
    Facepalm

    "significant digital skills shortage"

    So nothing has changed/improved since I first heard that phrase when I started in IT in 1975?

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