A few days ago, the Royal Society has announced a study on the state of computing education in UK schools, its problems and possible solutions. This has been quite widely reported in the press, for example here. The announcement itself makes for interesting reading. Its introduction starts:
Numbers of students studying computing are plummeting across the UK, with a fall of 33% in just three years in ICT GCSE students, a fall of 33% in six years in A level ICT and 57% in eight years in A level Computing students in England and similar declines found elsewhere in the UK.
It contains some good quotes from a range of people, such as this by Matthew Harrison, Director of Education at The Royal Academy of Engineering
“Young people have huge appetites for the computing devices they use outside of school. Yet ICT and Computer Science in school seem to turn these young people off. We need school curricula to engage them better if the next generation are to engineer technology and not just consume it.”
This is the latest development in a growing trend in the UK that recognises the dismal state of computer science education in UK schools, and starts to work on finding solutions. I became involved in this topic a couple of years ago, through the Computing At Schools (CAS) group, a fantastic movement of really motivated and smart individuals initiated by Simon Peyton-Jones. This has grown over the years with initiatives such as developing curriculum for schools, organising computing teacher conferences, and founding a computing teachers association.
While the announcement of the study contains little new to those who already had an interest in the topic, it’s great to see that the Royal Society is getting interested and getting involved. This helps getting more organisations on board with making a change (already apparent from the announcement) and will push the issue higher on the agenda of those who are in the position to make decisions.
There is no doubt at all in my mind that such change is urgently needed and important. Currently, there is a whole generation of kids, some of whom would make great and enthusiastic computer scientists, who never find out about the possibilities and joys of this exciting discipline.
Altogether a great development.