The number of students opting to take technology subjects at A-Level has continued to decline this year, leading industry experts to call on schools to urgently improve computer teaching.
The Computing A-level exam was sat by 4,002 students this year, down from 4,065 in 2010 and 4,710 in 2009. There has been a 20 per cent drop-off for the course since 2008, when over 5,000 students took Computing A-level.
The decrease this year is almost solely down to fewer female students taking the course, not ideal for an industry working hard to attract more women into IT careers.
The more popular Information and Communications Technology (ICT) A-level, which is a broader course covering business aspects of IT as well as practical elements, attracted 11,960 students this year, a slight drop-off from the 12,186 students in 2010.
In a reverse of the Computing A-level trend, more female students took ICT this year compared to 2010, although the number was only up by around 30.
The overall increase in the number of A-levels taken this year was around 13,500, highlighting that, while tech subjects are suffering in popularity, other courses are seeing increased student numbers.
Matthew Poyiadgi, European vice president of IT trade association CompTIA, laid some of the blame on schools for the lack of interest in technology subjects among the younger generation.
"This all starts with education, and IT education in most secondary schools is not interesting enough and not focused enough," he said.
"Too many 16 to 18 year olds think of IT as just sitting in a basement on a computer. We need to change this perception with the people who are currently making big career decisions."
Poyiadgi also made an interesting point about the placement of Word and Excel in the school curriculum.
"The basics of Word and Excel (or similar programs) are important and should be a part of every subject, but they are not the core of IT," he said.
"Teach real life IT skills, leave Word and Excel to English and maths. If we show students they can build and take apart computers, set up networks, and use IT in ways that is useful to them, I am confident we will see a lot more interest in the subject."
Colin Bannister, UK chief technology officer at software management firm CA, said today's A-Level results highlight two worrying trends that the government and technology industry need to address: the decline in students taking IT A-levels; and the increasing levels of youth unemployment.
"The content delivered within schools for IT-related courses should be urgently reviewed to ensure it is teaching the skills that are valued by employers in today's modern workplace as well as being attractive and interesting to potential students," he told V3.
"This may also go some way to addressing the gender diversity issue that exists in IT today."
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