Education secretary Michael Gove has revealed plans to scrap the information and communications technology curriculum in UK schools.
The current curriculum "cannot prepare British students to work at the very forefront of technological change", Gove said in a speech at educational technology conference BETT this morning.
Under the new plan, schools will be able to teach students using lesson plans developed by organisations such as BCS and eSkills UK. Gove implied that this will give pupils a better grounding in the fundamentals of computing, rather than simply teaching them how to use everyday applications.
Gove implied that this would allow pupils to receive a more interesting and useful IT education.
"Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch," he said. "By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in university courses and be writing their own apps for smartphones."
Gove’s announcement seems to have been influenced the recent Next Gen report on the prospects of the UK’s video game and digital effects industry. Co-authored by Ian Livingstone, founder of computer games company Eidos, the report decried the lack of programming in schools.
"Schools [have] turned away from programming in favour of ICT," the report found. "Whilst useful in teaching various proprietary office software packages, ICT fails to inspire children to study computer programming."
"Bored by ICT, young people do not see the potential of the digital creative industries. It is hardly surprising that the games industry keeps complaining about the lack of industry-ready computer programmers and digital artists."
Naace, the professional association for IT in education, welcomed Gove’s remarks, but warned that teachers will need support if they are going to make the best use of the new found freedom.
"Naace members will relish the freedom to develop their own innovative, challenging schemes of work for IT and computing in their schools, perhaps using or adapting those developed by Naace itself and other organisations," the body said in a statement. "Freedom though, brings responsibility. [T]eachers and schools are likely to need support in using the liberty given them by Mr Gove to provide the best possible education for their pupils."
"Given how quickly technology advances, the traditional approach to developing new programmes of study would indeed be unlikely to keep pace," it added. "Naace has been consistently highlighting the rapid change in technology which requires schools, teachers and exam boards to respond faster than educational change systems have previously allowed."