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New National Curriculum To Teach Five Year Olds Computer Programming

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Education Secretary Michael Gove to implement new computing curriciulum by September 2014

Primary school pupils in England will be taught computer programming as part of an overhaul of the national curriculum that will see ICT replaced with computing across all levels of education from September 2014

The plans were announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove, who hopes to finalise the curriculum by this autumn so schools have a year to prepare for the changes.

“Perhaps the most significant change of all is the replacement of ICT with computing,” said Gove of the new curriculum. “Instead of just learning to use programmes [sic] created by others, it is vital that children learn to create their own programmes [sic].”

Computing education

MichaelGove_1578392cComputer Science is at the core of the syllabus and Gove hopes pupils will apply logical thinking and creativity and make links with mathematics, science design and technology. They will be taught the principles of information and computation and should be able to use IT to create programs, use systems and a wide range of media.

Pupils as young as five will be taught how to create and debug simple programs, online safety and privacy and to create, organise and store digital content.

Children aged between seven and eleven will design, write and debug programs that accomplish specific goals. These will use selection and repetition, variables and various forms of inputs and outputs. Pupils will also be taught about networks and how to report inappropriate behaviour on the Internet.

Skills shortage

Older students will be taught to understand several key algorithms, including those for searching and sorting, and will be able to use two or more programming languages. They will also be able to make appropriate use of data structures such as lists, tables and arrays and be able to use Booleans.

The ability to undertake creative projects across several applications and several devices should help pupils in other subjects, as will the digital research skills acquired.

Gove scrapped the previous ICT curriculum in September last year after he declared it to be “harmful and dull” as students were “bored out of their minds” with being taught how to use Word and Excel.

The government will hope that the new curriculum will appease Ofcom and the British technology industry for being insufficiently rigorous and in danger of resulting in a skills shortage.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has been a vocal critic of the syllabus and called for ICT to be made a compulsory subject at GCSE level.

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  1. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) designed by Negroponte (MIT)
    Is the right approach for Great Britain.
    Or is the computer education of British Children a new achievement in the row
    English Foot, English Mile, English Pound, English left driving, etc. ?

    1. This is great. Finally someone who apparently gets it.
      Now we just need them to understand that its bad to teach vendor-specific/closed/proprietary products like Windows, Office etc.

      The real answer is teach the kids general computing principles, so use open source products and technology based on open standards. GNU/Linux etc. The benefits would be a well rounded education instead of one skewed to one company’s products. Not to mention how much in product licencing fees that would save the education system and tax payer.

    2. What a clueless statement. Yours is exactly the type of thinking that has gotten ICT into this mess. How does saying “everyone gets this brand of laptop” even begin to address how to teach general computing principles?

      OLPC is all about making cheap laptops (called XOs) for 3rd world countries where until now, “Nothing” has been the only affordable option. In order to stay cheap, the XO laptop is very underpowered and does not have many of the features that you and I would expect from even a basic laptop.

      Consequently it is pretty much the most unsuitable platform I can think of for a first-world country that needs to regain its lead in producing the best technology innovators and leaders.

  2. The English have been officially metric for a while.

    When Imperial units like foot & mile came out, they were early attempts at standardisation.

    Note that the Americans are still stuck with Imperial units!

    Using several different languages will help separate out the concepts from the implementations – something I have long recommended to people.

    It will help develop better powers of reasoning – as for a program to work, gaps in logical thinking become very soon apparent! Previously being able to quote & apply definitions to simple problems in isolation would often have been sufficient to pass tests – but successful programming demands more than that!

  3. And who exactly do they expect to teach programming to these primary school children? I’m willing to bet that 90% of primary schools in this country have exactly nobody with any qualifications or experience whatsoever in real programming. The most likely result is a bit of rote repetition of turtle graphics or cod VB with no proper understanding of what’s going on.

    Mind you, the old ICT syllabus was indeed utter rubbish.