UK government policy can't expect to keep pace with technological innovation and demonstrates a need for overhauls in IT education, according to education secretary Michael Gove.
Speaking at the BETT (British Educational Training and Technology) show in London on Wednesday, Gove expressed his optimism towards the introduction of the new computing curriculum, which will become compulsory for UK primary and secondary school pupils from September.
"Government regulation cannot keep pace with the scale of change technology brings," he said. "When I spoke here two years ago, Instagram and Snapchat had barely been heard of, now they're mainstream. How can government departments legislate for and regulate innovations which develop at such speed?"
He added that the old ICT curriculum, which was dropped as a mandatory subject at the end of 2012, was about as useful as "teaching children to send a telex or travel in a Zeppelin".
BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) as well as stakeholders such as Microsoft and Google have all contributed to the curriculum in a bid to ensure Britain's future workforce is better prepared for hi-tech jobs. The current lack of skilled individuals is cited by many tech firms as a barrier to success.
The new course outline will focus more heavily on core programming skills, and the safe use of technology and the internet. It is fairly open in its description, allowing exam boards and individual teachers to tailor their teaching to whatever technology is relevant at the time.
However, its ambiguity has also provoked concern from teachers, some of whom will have to pay out of their own pocket in order to become familiar with the basic teaching of programming skills.
Four hundred "master teachers" are currently being trained in a bid to quickly teach the basics to primary and secondary school teachers, Gove said.
"So, just as we've done in the curriculum, we are determined to give schools and teachers the freedom and autonomy to keep their eyes open for the next opportunity, the next development; and to recognise and react to it when it comes," he added.
"Now, our new curriculum teaches children computer science, information technology, and digital literacy; teaching them how to code and how to create their own programs, not just how to work a computer but how a computer works, and how to make it work for you."
He concluded: "None of us can know what lies ahead – all we can do is equip ourselves, and more importantly our children, with essential building blocks of knowledge, whether that's mathematical principles many millennia in the making or an intricate computer code younger even than our youngest school pupils."
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