Computing in schools
Training an army of tiny techies
“I CALL this a playground,” says Vinay Patel, gesturing to a score of monitors in the computer lab of Avanti House School in North London: “I tell pupils not to be scared of mistakes.” The two dozen teenagers in his classroom are among the first to follow a radically reformed technology curriculum which comes into force this month. But they are not the only ones learning new tricks. Though his background is in product design, Mr Patel has spent the summer grappling with Python and Java, two computer languages he will teach as part of the course.
Information and communications technology has been on school timetables since 1990. But lately it has grown unfashionable. In 2012 the Royal Society reported that dreary instruction in word-processing and spreadsheet software had made lessons “demotivating and routine”. That reputation has made it difficult to attract good teachers and has dulled enthusiasm for the subject.
This year’s change replaces ICT with a new subject called “computing”, which is mandatory for children in England aged five to 16. Tiddlers will learn about algorithms and other basic concepts of computer science; older kids will learn to use at least two programming languages. Big chunks of the course can be taught without computers; boosters say it will give children lasting problem-solving skills.
In part the overhaul aims to produce eager recruits for Britain’s growing technology firms. They cannot keep relying on a small pool of self-taught enthusiasts, reckons Bill Mitchell of BCS, an industry body. “Some people are so intelligent you could lock them in a room and hit them with a stick instead of sending them to school and they’ll still be successful,” he says. “But this will help children of all abilities.”
By requiring five-year-olds to study computer science, England has leapfrogged countries such as America. The EU thinks England is a model for its neighbours; Asian governments are watching closely, reckons Rachel Swidenbank of Codecademy, an education firm.
Yet some debugging is needed. The government has found only about ￡3m to train 200,000 or so teachers. Enthusiasm varies among free schools and academies. The reform will need years of support, thinks Simon Peyton Jones of Computing at School, a charity. “It’s like a rocket at take-off. It could still explode.”
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3.learn about 了解；学习
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