Friday, June 20, 2014

UK makes learning to program mandatory in all state-run primary and secondary schools from September

In the UK, from September this year (the start of their school year), all primary and secondary students in state-run schools will be taught how to program computers as a mandatory part of their national curriculum.

Announced as part of the UK's 'Year of Code', the introduction of this new mandatory computing curriculum was necessary, the UK Education Minister said, "if we didn't want the Googles and Microsofts of tomorrow to be created elsewhere."

This is stimulating the development of innovative programs, like Everyone Can Program and prompting massive retraining of teachers to support the curriculum.

Year of code promotional video

This type of vision is rare amongst governments globally, and this step is likely to give the UK an enormous boost to its economy over the next twenty years - by which time every adult in the UK under the age of 38 will have had some experience in coding.

Of course this doesn't mean that every child in the UK will choose to become a computer programmer, just as mandatory maths in schools hasn't raised a nation of mathematicians in Australia.

However it raises the bar unilaterally for the entire population and is likely to make the UK the most technologically-savvy and advanced nation in the world over time.

This initiative is attracting significant attention in Europe and North America, however has been largely ignored in Australia - where the attention is on future cuts to school spending, a review of the national curriculum and the decision of the Federal Government to invest in Latin.

In my view Australia's current position on education is extremely worrying for our future.

The declining number of IT graduates has already been recognised as a critical threat and there have been a number of reports about a growing shortfall in digital skills.

Most government agencies I speak to talk about how hard it is to attract good digital talent - or retain it - and digital literacy is an issue not only across the Australian public sector, but across the private and not-for-profit sectors as well.

We aren't going to address this with a focus on teaching Latin, increasing the religious content of our curriculum, or even by maintaining the status quo of mandatory English and Maths.

For Australia to remain relevant, competitive and successful - with the standards of living that Australians have become used to, we need to look seriously at where coding and other digital skills fit within our education system, while also addressing the shortfall of teachers we have to teach these skills.

1 comment:

  1. What do you think of the P-tech model in the US?

    It would definitely be great to get coding into our school system and make us the 'Smarter' country we've wanted to be.

    I'd hope we'd be careful though in how we do it, especially if corporate sponsorship leads to only teaching kids one way to solve problems.

    Good idea though!


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