Rants & Raves

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - Made­line Ben­nett

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.

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