We as professionals in the Computer Science industry have a responsibility to aid and assist our individual education systems in educating and encourage the next generations of Computing Professionals, be they Developers, IT Professionals, Testers etc.
Change is Coming!
Michael Gove announced recently that the current Information and Communications Technology (ICT) curriculum in England is to be replaced in September 2012. This was all announced at the BETT show and the current curriculum was described as demotivating and dull.
I have long been concerned about the quality and delivery of the ICT curriculum in schools with the curriculum being insipid and not enough time devoted to it (indeed I am little concerned about how this new change will be implemented as I have heard stories of Teachers who believe that any ICT curriculum doesn't need to be taught anymore!).
I indeed remember countless years spending many hours in Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Access. Indeed my first exposure to Access came with the instruction from my ICT Teacher "learn how to use it and then teach me!" Fortunately for me despite spending year after year doing the same thing I was also learning how to code and make more productive use of my own Commodore 64 at home with the support of my parents.
However had I not had that support and encouragement it's likely I would have become disillusioned with IT and moved away from it, I did consider a career as a solicitor for a while, but the draw of the World Wide Web and the endless possibilities captured my imagination.
It is the imagination of the young fertile minds in our school system which we as an industry have been losing for many years with an insipid and dull curriculum which demotivates and makes Computer Science seem boring and unchallenging. Indeed if I started at an early age and spent the next 5-10 years only being exposed to Office programmes I too would quickly decide that IT/Computing was boring and unattractive. Indeed my own brother went through a process of completing an NVQ in IT at GCSE level but when presented with options at A Level his school decided to only deliver an advanced version of the SAME course rather than the Computing qualification which included programming, scripting and networking. Hence someone who is very competent and enjoyed working with computers quickly determined that he would never move towards a career in IT ever! A great loss to our community! This is just one personal example how many more are there. Indeed when I finished my BA (Hons) Business Computing degree many of my peers were of the opinion that computing was the last field they wanted to work in. This I'm afraid is a sad indictment of the state of Computer Science curriculum throughout our education system.
Call To Action!
This recent acknowledgment by the government that our Computer Science curriculum is not good enough and does not match the needs of industry has taken far too long in my honest opinion, but looking at the positive aspect there is now an agenda for change and a visible campaign to increase the quality and breadth of Computer Science teaching. However now is the time for us as an industry to influence and assist our Teachers. In the same way that we spend time educating ourselves and each other on the latest advancements, methods, languages and Computer Science technology we now need to find ways in which to take this enthusiasm and skill into the classroom and lecture theatres.
Professionally we have user groups and societies in order to foster learning and to advance our own knowledge and equally there are similar avenues for us to take in influencing Computer Science curriculum! Two shining examples of this are STEMNET and the Microsoft Imagine Cup .
STEMNET works with industry to provide opportunities to inspire children and students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), this is achieved by assisting or delivering activities in schools and colleges, I have taken part in an activity in the last six months and found it a very rewarding experience helping a group of students work towards completing a challenge to create a mobile phone application centred around the London 2012 Olympics.
The Microsoft Imagine Cup is another initiative where industry can help Students to solve world problems by using technology and putting their learning into action and ultimately, this year, win a free trip to Sydney, Australia for the Imagine Cup 2012 Worldwide Finals.
These are just two examples of how we as an industry can assist with the Computer Science curriculum to inspire and encourage pupils and students to get more involved with how things work as opposed to just being a user.
Now more than ever we have a chance to make a real difference, it is up to us to help to Make a Difference to Computer Science in Schools!