The government's reform of the ICT curriculum hands the IT industry an important opportunity to ensure school children are taught the skills most needed by businesses of the future, argues Ian Ravenhall, IT director for global credit card issuer Capital One.
The industry has a chance to fix the lack of IT skills available to firms, he says, and this can be done by ensuring the new ICT curriculum is broad and flebile in its focus, and allows teachers to concentrate on hot new industry trends, like mobile and analytics.
While there have been many discussions on the contents of the new ICT curriculum, Ravenhall says these are often too focussed on use of particular applications.
"This reform [of the IT curriculum] offers society a massive opportunity to look at what skills the UK will need in the future to be competitive and to operate in this world," says Ravenhall.
"The knack is not to get hung up on particular skills because they change very quickly. There is an opportunity to make sure a technology education produces rounded individuals that are flexible."
Ravenhall was speaking to V3 as part of our Make IT Better campaign, which calls on the government to make the ICT curriculum process more transparent.
So far the government has not widely consulted with teachers, education advisors or IT professionals in its reforms, and V3 has been running a series of articles to make the views of such professionals heard.
The government revealed it would be overhauling the ICT curriculum in January this to make it more relevant to students.
The Department for Education asked the British Computer Society (BCS) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) to put forward a first draft of the new curriculum, with the help of other stakeholders. This draft of the curriculum is now completed and is in the hands of the DFE.
Ravenhall, with over 15 years' experience in the IT industry, not only leads the IT programme delivery for Capital One, where he manages a department of over 50 staff, but is also a member of the Corporate IT Forum Education and Skills Commission.
The Commission is just one of the many UK skills bodies that are disappointed by the government's lack of consultation.
"It's important that the curriculum is not purely about IT, but that it's about technology in a broader sense. Like when using PowerPoint, teachers need to explain its relevance to life," continues Ravenhall.
Ravenhall says the skills of the future include analytics - the discipline of being able to apply technology to solve business problems - as well as mobile and digital knowledge.
"Such industry trends will continue, so school children need to be taught how to make sense of these technologies," he adds.
The teaching of ICT contains a number of technology disciplines, including computer science, digital literacy, e-safety and IT.
For Ravenhall in particular, it is the IT element that needs to be strengthened the most in children's teaching.
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