Why Secondary School ICT Should be Updated for The Next Generation
Recent GCSE results have revealed falling pass rates in secondary school ICT. While the decline might not seem like much to lose hope over, the way we approach STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is certainly in need of a revamp.
With A* to C grades dropping in a subject that should be breaking new ground, now could be the time to reenergise a topic that pupils admit to finding dull. Technology is here to stay, so if we want to continue the current trends in innovation, we need to inspire the next generation of analysts and engineers. Secondary school ICT should be all about preparing children for the workplace and ensuring those with talent continue to enjoy the subject.
Why Do the Results Have Tech Companies Worried?
It may seem a tad dramatic that a decline of 1% in pass rates has caused such concern. But, the fact that such a critical subject has seen a drop at all is somewhat worrying. If you break down the numbers even further, you’ll find that most of those engaging in the subject in the first place are male. So, not only is secondary school ICT going backwards; it’s also failing to pique the interest of female students.
Although it’s easy to assume this is the way the tech industry has always worked, employment statistics suggest there is a very real skills gap arising because of ICT education. Right now, poor ICT results aren’t prompting children to take up further computing education and we are in danger of seeing the skills gap increase in the coming years. Initial talent doesn’t necessarily result in sustained expertise, especially if children are put off school ICT at an early stage. So what can be done to halt the downslide?
Promoting School ICT alongside Computer Sciences
In November last year, the government announced that traditional secondary school ICT lessons would be scrapped in favour of computer sciences. However, while this might appear to be a step in the right direction, many experts feel it is yet another damaging blow to children’s confidence.
The Department of Education looked to make similar decisions back in 2012, electing to replace ICT with computer sciences, despite the fact that interest in the subject had risen by nearly 13%. In the end, ICT and computer sciences became two separate modules, but very few reforms were made to the way ICT was taught. All this has resulted in is a subject that is no longer up to scratch or, indeed, up to date.
But are we really better off without it? While computer science offers students the chance to learn the basics of coding and computer construction, it doesn’t always help children understand how to use the programmes these processes create. Love them or loathe them, spreadsheets and databases are still critical to many high-earning jobs and children need to be able to use them effectively. So the question remains: how do we engage the next generation of school children with secondary school ICT?
Teaching Relevant Skills in a New Format
While computer science can help students understand the way technology works, by itself, it is not a viable replacement for ICT. Children need to learn to analyse and manipulate computer data in order to use it to their advantage. If secondary school
ICT is scrapped, we are left with a whole generation of employees who can create technology but not use it for anything productive.
In order for this to change, ICT must be updated for those coming through the ranks. Children nowadays grow up with technology and are well adjusted to it. Many of them can use an iPad before they’ve even learnt to walk, and it’s this audio-visual element that needs to be brought into secondary school ICT lessons.
If a tablet can be used for playing games and writing stories, it can be used for inputting and manipulating data. In fact, there are now tablet apps that are designed for this very purpose. The key difference between these programmes and the programmes of old is the increased audio-visual stimulation. Children can enter numbers into a spreadsheet and see the effects immediately through multimedia displays on interactive screens. While this has always been possible in school ICT in theory, it is not widely implemented.
By making the most of audio-visual solutions, you provide children with a way to see the results of their work directly. The audio-visual technology is there, it just needs schools to recognise its potential. Chances are you’re already using audio-visual solutions in other lessons, perhaps even computer sciences. There is no reason why this can’t be transferred to secondary school ICT and used to augment current learning resources.
Through the use of audio-visual solutions, school ICT can become far more accessible and the quality of learning and understanding is improved. Computer sciences may continue to grab the headlines, with the growing need for programmers and developers constantly made apparent. But, ICT should be considered just as important to the future of the tech industry, and reimagined to appeal to a new generation of bright young sparks.
Author Bio: James Berger is CEO of Netcom 92 — an audio-visual solutions company from Essex. With over twenty years of experience in the industry, James has provided technical support for primary and secondary schools up and down the country, helping them to improve the audio-visual quality of their ICT facilities.