Rants & Raves
The number of children taking computing GCSEs at school continues to fall. Is it time we made the subject compulsory, like English, maths and science?
THIS YEAR’S CROP of GCSE and A-level results saw a slight decline in overall pass rates, as students faced tougher exams. But one area that stayed pretty much static was the overall number of pupils taking computing exams.
Considering technology is now the lynchpin of pretty much everything we do, you’d think more kids would be keen to take a computing course. This is especially true in light of the younger generation’s obsession with technology. Ask most kids what they’d like for a birthday or Christmas, and a mobile phone or tablet will likely top the list – assuming they haven’t got one already, that is.
However, this passion for technology isn’t reflected at school. Computing and ICT GCSEs accounted for just 2.5% of all exams sat, a 0.3% drop compared to last year. Meanwhile, 1.9% of all A-Levels are computing subjects, a slight increase of 0.2% year-on-year, but still a very small proportion of the total number taken. Compare this to the 7.1% of students taking an A-level in psychology. Job vacancy trackers constantly highlight the fact that we’ll need more technology experts in the future than those skilled in subjects such as psychology, yet young people don’t seem to be making that connection with their exam options. While it’s great that so many children are growing up with regular access to mobiles and computers, that’s not really going to have much useful impact when it comes to finding the next Tim Berners-Lee or Eben Upton. I sometimes hear people amazed that their three-year-old can use an iPhone to open pictures or watch a video; that doesn’t surprise me at all, seeing as Apple has spent millions of dollars and several years making its flagship device as dumbed-down as possible. Hey, even my mum can use an iPhone, and that to me is much more amazing (sorry, Mum!). What would be much more impressive would be to see this young generation of computer users turned into makers and builders, gaining the skills at school and college to go into jobs in anything from app development to artificial intelligence and data analysis. Perhaps it’s now time to make the computing GCSE a compulsory subject, along with English, maths and science.