Wednesday, 17 October 2012

New ICT curriculum in England and Wales

I attended an Inside Government conference in London yesterday. The title of the event was The New ICT Curriculum: Creating a 21st Century Skillset. Although the focus was England, much of the discussion was relevant to Scotland.

Earlier this year the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced changes to ICT in England, and talked about the wiki curriculum. This conference was really a progress-to-date on these developments.

Michael Gove announced that there would be new GCSEs in January. There are now four new GCSEs available to schools, with more to follow. These new qualifications focus on computer science rather than ICT. In fact, that was a recurring theme -- the need to deliver real computing skills, such as computer programming, rather than word processing and spreadsheets. Another theme was the need for course specifications to be less prescriptive, giving teachers and lecturers more freedom to decide what and how things should be taught. It was noted that there is a tension between curricular freedom and school/college inspections.

I've noted before that, in my view, the Scottish ICT curriculum has avoided many of the problems that exist in England and Wales. For example, we have continued with "pure" Computing courses, alongside ICT awards. My own portfolio is a mix of Computing and ICT; it includes "pure" qualifications, such as HND Software Development, and ICT qualifications, such as PC Passport. We have also traditionally taken a collaborative approach to qualification development. For example, the on-going HN Review involves over 20 Scottish colleges. Perhaps an area that we could learn from would be trying to be less prescriptive when we design awards.

The conference used the classification system first proposed by The Royal Society, categorising ICT courses as "computer science" or "information technology" or "digital literacy". SQA plans to adopt this terminology too.


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