The Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) examination board has pitched a revamped computer science GCSE curriculum that places cyber security at its core in a bid to help overcome the skills gap.
The draft Computer Science GCSE qualification will be sent to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation next week, which will decide whether it will be approved. If it is approved the curriculum will be used from September 2016.
OCR claims that the reworked curriculum is designed to "equip learners with computing skills that could see them joining MI5's elite rank of cyber spooks, creating the next Facebook or developing a blockbuster computer game".
OCR listed security as a key focus, claiming that it will include lessons on avoiding phishing, the nature of malware and the deployment and use of firewalls.
The curriculum will also continue the board's attempts to teach students how to create, as well as use, applications.
OCR said that 60 percent of the curriculum is dedicated to "computational thinking", a buzzword referring to using code for problem solving, and 20 percent of students' final grades will be based on an independent coding project.
The board partnered with education technology company Codio to give schools running the curriculum a cloud-based programming and course content platform and information source.
OCR computer science and ICT subject specialist Rob Leeman explained that the curriculum is the most advanced to date and was developed using feedback from private sector companies.
"This specification builds on OCR's pioneering qualification development in this subject area. We have consulted with companies such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco, as well as teachers and higher education academics and organisations," he said.
"There is growing demand for digital skills worldwide. Whether students fancy themselves as the next cyber spook, Mark Zuckerberg or Linus Torvalds, our new qualification will be the first exciting step towards any career that requires competence in computing."
The curriculum's focus on cyber has been welcomed by members of the security community.
"The specific inclusion of cyber security in the GCSE curriculum is long overdue, so this is a welcome move from OCR," said Sophos global head of research James Lyne.
"It is vital that we develop skilled professionals to close the existing skills gap and protect our future technology and infrastructure.
"As it stands, the list of cyber security topics OCR has shared looks a good one, which should help to build every individual's awareness of what they need to do to stay safe.
"Combined with the programming design thinking aspect of the course, it should allow those who move on to technical careers to write better quality code and avoid some of the security issues we see today."
The overhaul follows widespread reports that the UK is facing a cyber skills shortage, and the new curriculum is one of many initiatives designed to overcome this.
GCHQ launched a Cyber Insiders Summer School initiative in March designed to improve computer science students' security knowledge.
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