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British Schoolkids To Be Taught Computer Coding

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the how-to-program-politely dept.

Education 247

An anonymous reader writes "The UK government has finally decided to do something about the dire state of IT and computer science teaching in the country: it will create a new 'IT-centric' General Certificate of Secondary Education that will cover computational principles, systemic thinking, software development and logic. The current ICT GCSE has been lambasted for boring kids to death with lessons on using Word and Excel, rather than teaching computer programming."

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Hello, next generation of game developers... (1)

fortapocalypse (1231686) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419842)

That is all I did in 5th grade which was the only time I got to program at school, on an Apple II+/IIe

Finally (3, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419844)

They will find a use for all of those BBC micros that have been lying around for 25 years.

Re:Finally (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420130)

I learned to touch-type on those, and that's nowhere 25 years ago!

Or, wait, *counts*
...
Damn...
Get off my lawn.

Re:Finally (2)

EponymousCustard (1442693) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420228)

or...just in time for one raspberry pi per child!

Re:Finally (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420476)

You joke, but that would be a better introduction to what computers actually do than almost anything you could teach them on a modern OS.

Not just for jobs (4, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419868)

This is a really good thing. As the summary notes, this will teach kids logic and thinking systematically. Knowing how to program isn't just a useful skill in the direct sense of programming things and possibly being employed that way. It also does a really good job of making one think precisely and carefully. There's also another advantage which is it helps kids appreciate that the technology around them are things they can understand and don't need to treat like they are magic.

Re:Not just for jobs (4, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419920)

But will they continue it when they notice that those pupils are then able to think not only about algorithms, but also about the stuff politicians tell?

Re:Not just for jobs (2)

discord5 (798235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419952)

But will they continue it when they notice that those pupils are then able to think not only about algorithms, but also about the stuff politicians tell?

No amount of C programming will teach you to discern a lie, except in comments.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420048)

What's with the incessant gubbermint conspiracy theories? I mean really. There's just so much more to be concerned about right now, rather than jumping at shadows.

And anyway, I can believe incompetence, stupidity, greed and all the rest for being at fault for why society is so broken. But malicious conspiracies? You'd need TALENT to do that.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420290)

And anyway, I can believe incompetence, stupidity, greed and all the rest for being at fault for why society is so broken. But malicious conspiracies? You'd need TALENT to do that.

See, that's just what they want you to believe.~

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420512)

Who said anything about malicious conspiricies? OP mentioned lies. Do you think your government doesn't lie to you?

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420206)

I think it is the 'logic' part that will help discern lies, not the 'coding' part.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420298)

But will they continue it when they notice that those pupils are then able to think not only about algorithms, but also about the stuff politicians tell?

They're already taught that, for example in History (detecting bias, reliability of a source), English (reading newspapers and finding 'weasel words' [wikipedia.org] , determining the intended audience of a newspaper), and probably that subject that was introduced after I finished school (politics/society/culture, I can't remember the name).

In English we were given articles from the Daily Mail, where the teacher asked us to highlight every "may", and then cross out the whole sentence. What were we left with? Not much. We played "find the fact" with articles from The Star ("this newspaper is targeted at men, as can be seen from the many pictures of topless big-breasted women on every page").

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

lynnae (2439544) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419932)

that's what I was thinking.

The benefits from learning logical thinking can be used throughout your life.

I wonder what they'll be teaching them on. There must be some lightweight youngster friendly languages out there that teach you all the logic basics, and then extend out further.

Re:Not just for jobs (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419984)

I wonder what they'll be teaching them on. There must be some lightweight youngster friendly languages out there that teach you all the logic basics, and then extend out further.

Probably .NET or whatever the corporate favorite of the day is :-(

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420172)

I wonder what they'll be teaching them on. There must be some lightweight youngster friendly languages out there that teach you all the logic basics, and then extend out further.

Probably .NET or whatever the corporate favorite of the day is :-(

Someone mod this NOT Funny.

Re:Not just for jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420264)

I wonder what they'll be teaching them on. There must be some lightweight youngster friendly languages out there that teach you all the logic basics, and then extend out further.

This is what the Raspberry Pi guys want their board to be used for.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419980)

Force every class in existence on them because it might teach them other skills.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420194)

Force every class in existence on them because it might teach them other skills.

I doubt they will make everyone take it, although virtually everyone will have to use a computer, so maybe they should.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420344)

Force every class in existence on them because it might teach them other skills.

I doubt they will make everyone take it, although virtually everyone will have to use a computer, so maybe they should.

Non-core GCSEs (taken in the year the student turns 16e) are generally optional, but perhaps the ideas will trickle down into compulsory IT lessons for younger students.

Re:Not just for jobs (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420014)

Yeah, I think this is the most important part. Even if you aren't a technologist, it's a bad situation to be in the 21st century and have no understanding of how systems work, at least in principle, because you're unable to offer even commentary or suggestions about them, or think about how to interface with them, in a way that's grounded in anything approaching reality. This has sometimes been called "procedural literacy" [pdf] [psu.edu] or "computational thinking" [pdf] [luc.edu] .

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420062)

I don't think someone that is uninterested in this will even remember anything or care about doing any of that. It just seems like another way to waste time that they could be using to complete work from classes that teach things that they actually use everyday to me.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420286)

How much of high school is useful everyday to anyone? I have never once applied the Bohr model of the atom to my daily life (and I'm even an academic researcher in the sciences), nor the writing of Victor Hugo, nor the knowledge I gained of 16th-century French kings. Several of those things are culturally interesting and may make it easier for me to read and understand other things, but hey, that's also true with knowing the basics of how a computer is programmed.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420390)

How much of high school is useful everyday to anyone?

Good question. If the class teaches something that is used frequently (basic math, English, etc) by the average person, then I think it should be mandatory. Basically, things that you have a high probability of using later.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420630)

Even if you aren't a technologist, it's a bad situation to be in the 21st century and have no understanding of how systems work,

I work with people in IT, programmers no less, who don't know how systems work. As soon as we gave them admin rights to install what they wanted, the amount of problems on their machines went up by a significant amount.

You think someone who doesn't care about technology will absorb anything from these courses? All they want to know is how to send a twit or update their Facebook page from whatever device is in their hands. They don't care about how system work, they just want it to work.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420764)

They don't care about how system work, they just want it to work.

Which is a problem that can be fixed if done early, which is the kind of thing these types of classes are supposed to do.

It's 2011. Not caring how systems work is unacceptable unless you are OK with being stuck with anything outside of "blue collar" or food services type stuff. Even some traditionally blue-collar work is now becoming more and more white-collar - auto mechanics (on modern vehicles) for example. And at these ages, you really don't know what the hell you're going to end up doing, so this kind of thinking should be hammered in. It's the kind of thing that you can have and never use and be OK, or not have and be in trouble.

Re:Not just for jobs (3)

symes (835608) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420024)

This is a really good thing. As the summary notes, this will teach kids logic and thinking systematically. Knowing how to program isn't just a useful skill in the direct sense of programming things and possibly being employed that way. It also does a really good job of making one think precisely and carefully. There's also another advantage which is it helps kids appreciate that the technology around them are things they can understand and don't need to treat like they are magic.

They are also skills that generalise and are useful elsewhere, not just in IT. I also see programming as something of a conduit - you programme something so this could help nurture interests in other areas like math.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420026)

This is a really bad thing. I don't need the competition in 20 years time :) Kids that have grown up on consoles and know nothing are a joy. Thank you Mario.

Re:Not just for jobs (5, Informative)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420056)

I agree.

I tell people all the time, a little bit of programming experience goes a long way.

It isn't just about being a programmer by trade. You come across problems now and then in Excel that can't be solved any other way besides some VBA. Maybe you don't know VBA, but if you understand logical program flow, objects, etc... some Google will get you the rest of the syntax. My Biologist wife and I had to sit down and get her going with R. A few times in the Army I've had to process a shit-ton of text data and a perl script came in handy. A little programming knowledge has helped me out many times in normal life. I'm no programmer.

We all probably have tons of examples where just programming literacy and understanding of systematic thinking and logical flow have come in super handy. Just learning how to abstract a problem, break it into parts, and turn it into an algorithm.... forget the code, that is educational. Kids *should* be exposed to this. It will give them skills that will serve them well later.

Re:Not just for jobs (1)

3leggeddog (981745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420214)

This is a really good thing. As the summary notes, this will teach kids logic and thinking systematically. . . .

Anything that teaches kids how to identify foggy thinking (or worse, untruth) has the potential of destroying "civilization as we know it." On the whole, this may not be a bad thing, though it certainly has the potential of being even more traumatic to the world than the collapse of Communism was to eastern Europe.

Geometric Proofs? (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420220)

Why not teach them how to construct geometric proofs instead? And this is a serious question.

The issue I have with teaching computer programing at such a young age is that programing languages tend to be transient. C or JAVA? A few years go it was BASIC vs. Fortran. I have had good C class that taught me theory which I use today – even though I know longer work in C. But if the kids are just learning how to hack – in the bad sense or the word – twisty rabbit warren logic type of code – then I would think more harm than good was done.

I think at that young age there is better ways to beef up their Cognitive skills (Chess, math - Heck – even a Jesuit priest teaching theology)

Re:Geometric Proofs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420352)

Because computer science is at least *somewhat* relevant to their lives, unlike geometry or theology.

Language doesn't matter; the basic skills are the same in all languages. I learned BASIC; it didn't turn me into some kind of only-able-to-program-in-BASIC guy.

Re:Geometric Proofs? (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420356)

That is why this [htdp.org] is an absolute must, it does not learn a language (even though it uses Scheme), it learns to think about algorithms and their design.

Re:Geometric Proofs? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420554)

Seriously?

At GCSE level that's not really relevant. Some simple C, java or other programming skills along with an intro to computer architecture and an intro to algorithms will be enough.

Re:Geometric Proofs? (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420468)

Why not teach them how to construct geometric proofs instead? And this is a serious question.

The issue I have with teaching computer programing at such a young age is that programing languages tend to be transient. C or JAVA? A few years go it was BASIC vs. Fortran. I have had good C class that taught me theory which I use today – even though I know longer work in C. But if the kids are just learning how to hack – in the bad sense or the word – twisty rabbit warren logic type of code – then I would think more harm than good was done.

I think at that young age there is better ways to beef up their Cognitive skills (Chess, math - Heck – even a Jesuit priest teaching theology)

You had be agreeing with you right up to the point where you suggested exposing children to a priest.

Re:Geometric Proofs? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420592)

Basic vs Fortran was in the 80s, I know it takes some thinking to realise how old you are, but the 80s ended over two decades ago.

Re:Not just for jobs (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420584)

Not just that, but being able to actually program a computer is the difference between being able to use a tool and being able to make a tool. Like, for example, a hydraulic punch. It's a hydraulic press, and it's a punch, and you put them together and you get a powerful new tool. Just being able to script enough to tie other applications together opens up whole new worlds, especially when scripting support is good (e.g. AppleScript, AREXX, or Unix scripting; the point is that all these are useful and well-supported.) Computers are the tool that made the information age possible.

The A-Level (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37419918)

Is even worse. It's a waste of time.

Most kids don't care about coding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37419924)

Most people don't become programmers by choice. Why force the 99% of kids that would not otherwise have an interest in computers to suffer through some poorly-thought-out introduction to Java?

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (2)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420050)

Most people don't become programmers by choice. Why force the 99% of kids that would not otherwise have an interest in computers to suffer through some poorly-thought-out introduction to Java?

Actually one in four people has the intrinsic required to become a professional programmer. I took auto mechanics in high school. I'm not an auto mechanic, but it is a useful knowledge set for driving a car. As programming is a useful knowledge set for using a computer.

As for poorly thought out "anything", well, it's poorly thought out, not really relevant to the point you seem to be making.

As for becoming a programmer by choice, I didn't have the opportunity to study computers until university, I found it a terrific and exciting application of logic. I guess I'm not most people in your book, nor are many of the people I've worked with over the years. In fact, I've run into a very few people who program for the money, but don't like it. But anyone who follows a discipline taht they don't really like deserves to be miserable.

I guess in summary, I'd have to say that you haven't got a fsking clue what you are talking about.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420712)

I took auto mechanics in high school. I'm not an auto mechanic, but it is a useful knowledge set for driving a car. As programming is a useful knowledge set for using a computer.

Exactly. I couldn't actually repair my car to save my life, but my father taught me enough growing up as I helped him repair his that now, when something is wrong with my car, I can at least have some concept of what the problem might be, and it's severity. It helps me narrow down problems, which in turn helps keep me from getting completely ripped off at the mechanic. Even if I don't use the knowledge directly, it's good to have.

At the end of the day, I'm still taking my car to someone else to get fixed, just like the person that shows up and says "My car is broke. It won't go." like a Pakled. The difference is I'm not paying for oil flushes when I just need my brakes done...

Programming may not be used directly by 99% of the population, but having some concept of it may help reduce the large number of people out there that recoil in fear at the first sight of a strange dialog box and go running for Geek Squad or the Genius Bar. This is good for all of us.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (3, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420068)

Why force 99% of kids to read classic works of literature? Why force 99% of kids to participate in physical education?

How the hell do they know if they have an interest before they've really been exposed to it? I know people that went from the "something is wrong with my retractable cup holder on my Compaq" camp to discussing the pros and cons of different hardware builds as they designed their newest tower in just a few years. All it took was exposure in a learning environment and patience and the computer stuff they weren't interested in before was a hell of a lot more interesting to them.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420188)

Why force 99% of kids to read classic works of literature? Why force 99% of kids to participate in physical education?

I actually agree with this. If they want to see if they like something, they can do it on their own time. I won't support making every subject in existence mandatory simply because a few people don't know what they like.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420710)

Computer programming is a useful skill, even if you don't go into it as a profession. Everyone uses a computer, and everyone has tasks that they could improve with some automation.

Classic literature on the other hand provides no useful skills whatsoever. Interpreting the metaphors of some opium addled aristocrat is just a complete and utter waste of time. Same with PE. When was the last time you had to climb a rope or get picked last for dodgeball?

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420780)

Why force 99% of kids to read classic works of literature? Why force 99% of kids to participate in physical education?

You are absolutely correct. There is no reason for that, just like there is no reason for this [slashdot.org] .

But I know that your point is the opposite, but that's what my comment is about that I am referencing. Get those kids to work.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (2)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420120)

I think it would be more accurate to say that very few become the kind of programmer they end up as out of choice.

A lot of people want to be programmers because they think of writing fun and exciting software (usually games). What they very quickly find out is that there aren't actually that many jobs in that sort of development; what most of us end up doing is the kind of software that is hidden away behind closed doors, used by only a few people for some internal business task.

Even the softwre I work on now that is used by people outside of my employer is used by a relatively small esoteric group. And I still have to work on code for internal use only.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (2)

rufty_tufty (888596) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420232)

Name me a job today that requires an education that does not require using a computer.
Knowing how your tools work is the first thing you should learn in any job.

Where did you get those numbers? (1)

bigredradio (631970) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420662)

Why force the 99% of kids

Most computer classes are an elective. Here is CA, some schools are offering band or typing. It would be great to offer this as an option. I doubt that this is compulsory for all students. I took a CS class in Junior High and all we did was programming. (Apple IIe) I agree that Java might not be the best language, maybe web programming (php and JS) is more accessible since they do not need to compile and they can all produce their own websites to show their friends.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420686)

You know that nobody is forced to take GCSE's in the UK, right?

And that most schools will have a core - English, Mathematics, Science, a language, either history or geography or both - and then other electives on top of that?

The number of GCSE's people do in the UK varies with ability too, from 4 or 5 to some exceptional kids doing up to 15. Programming will not be forced down anyone's throat.

OTOH I would have jumped at the chance to do that instead of Latin.

Re:Most kids don't care about coding (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420834)

Most people don't speak French by choice. Why force the 99% of kids that would not otherwise have an interest in France to suffer through some poorly-though-put introduction to French?

(Back in the 80s, I was taught French in UK school, but not computers. Fat lot of good that was to me.)

Too Late (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419946)

I did GCSE computing in 1998, and my coursework was a programming task (modelling the 3-body problem). At my school, however, I'd been taught to program aged 7. If I'd started programming aged 14, I'd have found it a lot harder. The government should be making programming a primary school activity, not leaving it to an optional course later on. Ideally, programming should be the first thing children are taught to do with computers at school - it was for me, and after that everything else is easy.

Re:Too Late (2)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420004)

Computing and IT aren't the same thing, though. In computing, you did logic, sorting, programming fundamentals etc. In IT you did mail merges, formatting word processing documents, and played Chocks Away on the Acorn Arc, if you were lucky.

Re:Too Late (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420786)

GCSE IT shouldn't exist at all. GCSEs are for academic subjects, IT is a vocational subject. There should be NVQs in IT, not GCSEs.

Re:Too Late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420036)

Damn, it was always my dream throughout high school to explore the 3-body problem.
Unfortunately I wasn't the most attractive teenager so I never got the opportunity.

Re:Too Late (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420438)

I don't think GCSE Computing existed for a while. This seems to be an effort to bring it back.

This [ocr.org.uk] is a pilot project for GCSE Computing.

I failed my IT GCSE. (2)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419962)

I did my IT GCSE in 1999, and came out with an E at the end of it. I hadn't done any coursework at all, as it was just to mind-numbingly painful to dumb down my thinking to give the answer they wanted. The course seriously needed updating.

I'm a network manager in local government now. Goes to show how appropriate what they taught was to the real world.

Re:I failed my IT GCSE. (2)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420080)

If your government IT department is anything like most countries, I'd say your failure accurately represents where you ended up in life! ;)

Re:I failed my IT GCSE. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420122)

Tons of ego: check
Scads of hubris: check

How could you BE anything but a network admin? Government nonetheless!

Erm (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420336)

Bragging about being a network admin for local government? Thats nothing to be proud of...maybe you failed that class because you weren't willing or were too dumb to learn the stuff they were teaching and used 'oh its too dumbed down and far beneath me' as an idiotic rationalisation? If you knew everything already, there's no excuse to fail the exam, right?

Re:I failed my IT GCSE. (0)

wildstoo (835450) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420614)

I'm a network manager in local government now. Goes to show how appropriate what they taught was to the real world.

You think network manager in local government == real world.

Hilarious!

Lots of Multimedia! (1)

ldierk (1270930) | more than 3 years ago | (#37419986)

ICT should also be taught by embedding interactive and multimedia technology across every subject, according to Intellect - which believes technology businesses could play a role here to help teachers make the best use of relevant equipment by supporting training.

Yeah that's how l learned CS too...

Good (2)

coolmadsi (823103) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420058)

I did ICT at GCSE level, and A-Level, both times the course was fairly boring. Particularly the "here is how you create some basic documents" sections. One of the modules was to create a small website - we were allowed to use Dreamweaver, but so the course was somewhat challenging I did it in notepad (got full parks for that module too).

Once I got to University to study Computer Science, I started to learn actual interesting things, including programming (we hadn't done it at school, perhaps a little bit into Excell macros, but nothing major), but there were a lot of people in the first year of the Uni course who were struggling to learn the basic concepts, so improvement in the basics earlier on is definatly needed.

Excel? typically under-utilized (3, Interesting)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420076)

I imagine they could make a pretty interesting class in Excel if they'd move beyond formatting cells and doing simple sums and averages. They could even get into macro programming, but even without there's a lot of stuff you can do with it.

Re:Excel? typically under-utilized (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420516)

We had to make an application in Excel or Access. Find a real-life customer, get them to sign off on design docs, build the app, release. The thing is, they marked a report we wrote on its design. Everyone just mocked up screenshots in MS Paint and got their friends to sign as made-up real world customers.

ICT 2004.

Whippersnappers (2)

Spodi (2259976) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420098)

Back in my day, when I was bored in school, I would just ditch class to program. During that time, I developed majority of my first engine [vbgore.com] . Seriously though, I think this is a great idea. Computers are so much part of our lives these days, and will only become even more so, that everyone should know the basics. I find programming also helps you practice other important concepts, like the ability to break apart complex tasks into manageable pieces instead of curling up in a ball and crying.

I'm in two minds about this (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420100)

There are the 85% of kids who will do this and benefit from logical thinking as well as a real skill. Then there are the 15% who won't cope, and might be better off learning how to use a word processor, or even just that smashing shop windows and stealing is not the best way to get a happy and fulfilling life.

Re:I'm in two minds about this (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420478)

There are the 85% of kids who will do this and benefit from logical thinking as well as a real skill. Then there are the 15% who won't cope, and might be better off learning how to use a word processor, or even just that smashing shop windows and stealing is not the best way to get a happy and fulfilling life.

The article says this is in addition to, rather than instead of, the existing IT GCSE.

Just a return to the 80s. (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420112)

I the mid to late 80s, when I did my computer science GCEs and A levels, it was a proper computer science curriculum with computer architecture, language theory, machine code, high level languages (basic/pascal/prolog) databases etc. As with the other GCEs and A levels there was a lot of university involvement in setting the exams, so the curriculum led smoothly into the university computer science curriculum.

So this isn't a new thing, just a return to the old thing.

Re:Just a return to the 80s. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420186)

hmm I was told to avoid the o-level and A-level for a comp sci degree and concentratr on maths, physics etc as these where greatly requred skills (esp the maths) in order to get through the course. I'm glad I did as the course I did at Uni of Leeds was very maths heavy but really helped think about problems, algorithms etc in a programic and logical way. NB guy who founded IMDB was in the same year as me on the same course!

Sometimes things were better in the past!

Re:Just a return to the 80s. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420310)

I took the computer science O and A levels for the easy A. It left more time to work on maths and physics.

Shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420124)

Sounds like a course I'd have been very interested in. As it was, our school viewed IT as a nuisance subject as we were all fully capable of using the MS Office suite (which as far as I can tell was the basis for the GCSE) and we'd have all fallen asleep during lessons, or spent hours playing the hidden game in Excel.

In the entire course of my school career (I'm only 24 and didn't go on to tertiary education) the closest I came to programming was a couple of weeks in primary school playing with a large robotic tortoise.

Give Us More Systemic Thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420128)

Finally, a proposal for teaching kids to think with their entire bodies. Hi-hip-horay, Brits!

Finally! (2)

MjDelves (811950) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420132)

When I started secondary school in the early 90's we had BBC Basics in our ICT suite. By the time I left we had PCs. They upgraded the computers but forgot to upgrade the teachers. Our ICT lessons consisted of training the teacher how to make text italic, how to enter data into a spreadsheet or (more frequently) how to mute the sound if he had a hangover. As a consequence none of us bothered to take ICT GCSE.

I think it's funny how... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420138)

Quite a few people here agree instantly when someone says that there should/will be mandatory programming classes. Here. On this nerd-oriented website. No bias there, right?

Forcing these classes on people will, like, totally make people 900% smarter, man. It'll improve peoples' logic even if they have no interest in the class and forget everything entirely!

Re:I think it's funny how... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420236)

I was "forced" to take plenty of lessons at school, some of them I ended up enjoying as it turns out. Once I reached GCSE age I could pick and choose the subjects I wanted to continue studying.

Re:I think it's funny how... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420522)

Well, if you're actually going to use the classes (things that the average person will most likely use later), then sure. Make it mandatory.

Re:I think it's funny how... (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420766)

Where are you people getting the idea this is mandaatory?

People take all different GCSE qualifications. This will be for kids that want to do it, or whose school have chosen it as a core subject.

Programming for general education? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420158)

Programming is a specialized field, guys. I know a lot of us are programmers, and yes I think courses should be offered in all middle and high schools so people who want to can learn more. But it is not for everyone -- it requires a fair amount of logical and critical thinking skills that public schools don't really cater to, as well as a decent knowledge of mathematics. Even more, it is basically learning an entirely new language. So yes, starting young is a good thing, but let's be honest: this is something most of the population simply can't be expected to do, and public schools are there to teach essential foundational skills, not specialized skills. That is what college is for.

Re:Programming for general education? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420242)

You're forgetting that it somehow drastically improves the critical thinking skills of people who don't even care about the class (likely the ones who will forget it entirely anyway)! Really, even if the entire class is nearly worthless to someone, we should make it mandatory if there's a chance that it may improve their skills slightly in another area. That won't give them less time to do work in other classes that teach things that are used on a daily basis at all.

Re:Programming for general education? (2)

shish (588640) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420464)

it requires a fair amount of logical and critical thinking skills that public schools don't really cater to

This is public schools catering to logic and thinking, and it is a good thing there's finally something attempting to fill the gap

Re:Programming for general education? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420632)

Children in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland are different) make choices about what they want to study at the end of the school year in which they turn 14 (year 9). They study for GCSEs in years 10 and 11.

This course will probably be optional, and the existing IT course remains.

(Whether its a good idea to make choices like "no more art/music/geography/french/PE" aged 14 is for a different discussion. For years 12 and 13 most students choose three, four or five subjects, and there are no restrictions as they're beyond compulsory school age.)

Who will teach it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420222)

I did my computer studies O Level in 1977. My sons' ICT courses have looked mind-numbingly dull in comparison, so it is a good thing, though rather late, for the authorities to realize that this is needed.
I am concerned about who they will get to teach the course though.

Atleast teach them touch (3, Insightful)

xiando (770382) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420246)

I learned touch on a typewriter in grade-school and I have benefited me immensely ever since. That's one of the basics they don't but really should teach kids. Some basic bash commands would probably also be very helpful, but that requires them to switch from Wintendo in the educational systems. I never once had need for the meaningless Word lessons I was forced to take. Teaching the programming would be great, but I don't quite get why they would want to teach C or Java or something like that to _all_ children. Giving them useful basic computer skills sounds more meaningful.

The most important thing they can teach, typing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420288)

Sure, it is boring as hell, but it has taken me years to get rid of old bad habits and I still can't type nearly as well as some of my office mates. Quality typing is a skill that will be used for a lifetime in almost any profession.

Re:The most important thing they can teach, typing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420410)

My personal route to touch typing was an addiction to World of Warcraft. You sure find those important keys when they've got abilities bound to them.

What's More Relevant? (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420294)

The current ICT GCSE has been lambasted for boring kids to death with lessons on using Word and Excel, rather than teaching computer programming.

More kids will be using Word and Excel later in life than will be coding--by orders of magnitude. Excel is only as boring as you make it (something most teachers don't understand).

When we start making curriculums that are driven by niche interests and by what is considered "fun" or not, society suffers.

Re:What's More Relevant? (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420634)

More kids will be using Word and Excel later in life than will be coding--by orders of magnitude.

And if you need a class to show you how to use Word and Excel, your computer education has already failed you. And yes, I do use advanced features of each. I clicked around the menus until I found the stuff I needed.

Which is really the difference between computer literate and computer illiterate people. I show my mother how to do something in Word, and she learns that. I sit her in front of libreoffice and she is completely confused. Because she's looking for the exact same menu option located at the exact same place on the screen. When you teach people how to use a particular piece of software, that's what you're breeding. A programming class is more oriented towards thinking about how to solve problems and debugging code, through some trial and error. Perhaps surprisingly to you, that will actually translate into better Word and Excel users, among other things.

Re:What's More Relevant? (1)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420814)

More kids will be using Word and Excel later in life than will be coding--by orders of magnitude. Excel is only as boring as you make it

Yes, if we only had better teachers kids would be running around showing each other their cool spreadsheets.

You always wanted to have a database of your dogs daily food consumption, right? Cool, I can show you how to do monthly reports. And It will be very useful for the rest of your life, trust me on that one.

Brilliant!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420320)

Where can I sign up to be a teacher?

*Edit* The Capcha it just asked me for was "anarchy" spooky eh

hold on .... (1)

toolslive (953869) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420348)

First they will have to reach consensus on the programming language they will use.

Re:hold on .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420414)

Visual Basic, of course.

I'm seriously confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420372)

Just ended school in 2005 there (2 extra years in secondary), I done computer programming in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th years.
Is this England only or something? (Scotland here)
Or do they actually mean those 2 first years before the class branches off to a specialized course? Could be useful since I know a bunch of people who took the class never wanted to continue it because it wasn't what they expected at all.

We had Computing class, and an Administration class, Computing was essentially Computer Science / Software Development / Networking / etc. Lite, Administration was spreadsheets, word processing and all that fun stuff.
ICT in the first 2 years was literally "this is how you click, here, learn how to touch type" and basic computer stuff you'd expect.

Business Classes v. Computer Classes (1)

twmcneil (942300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420470)

Good to see that they are placing Word and Excel classes outside the province of "Computer" classes, probably in the realm of Business Classes as they should be. I get very upset when I see my own children in a "Computer" class learning how to use Word or Excel. It's a total waste off my kids time. Anyone who needs a class in order to use these simple apps is beyond help. Sounds like these people are at least pointed in the right direction.

a better idea (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420520)

How about abolishing the child labor laws as well as minimum wage laws, teach the kids to read, write and count, (of-course some real history and economics would be nice) and then LET those, who want to get out there and take low paying jobs learning skills at work.

There is no better way to learn skills, and majority of people don't need to learn any academics beyond basic reading/arithmetic.

People DO need to learn about reality though, this needs to come from history and economics, real economics, not bullshit propaganda, that is pushed in schools. Here is what I am talking about [youtube.com] - watching an hour of this, is much more education about economics and politics than most of what kids learn on these subjects in their entire span of education.

Allowing kids actually to work would do wonders for society as well. This would allow debts to be reduced, as majority of kids don't need higher education and don't need to go to colleges to take binge drinking classes disguised as "majoring in sociology". Allowing kids to enter work force earlier and cheaply would reduce their further dependence on any government. Of-course this must be coupled with abolishment of any such programs as social security.

By the way, on the issue of NAMING bill and naming programs in government: there needs to be HONESTY in naming conventions. The bills really shouldn't be named by those who push for them.

A "Jobs Act"? Who is against jobs? It's like Perry said during a debate: I hate cancer! - Fucking genius. Who loves cancer? Vote for Perry, he hates cancer!

I am saying this because the very naming conventions are designed to provoke an emotional response, which directs the population. Just because you call something "Social Security" doesn't actually mean that it will provide real security rather than eventual Social Destruction.

Naming something a "Jobs Act" doesn't mean it will actually create jobs or it's for jobs. [slashdot.org]

Anyway, a good idea in a bad economy, where there is high unemployment would be to make employing people much simpler and cheaper, rather than trying to engineer a way out that is only going to guarantee further destruction (printing and dumping money into the system.)

As to kids programming: some are replying here that it's a good thing to teach kids that, because it would teach them logic and other skills.

In reality most kids don't need to take these courses, just like most kids don't need courses zoology, but they could learn quite a bit if they were allowed to work, to go into apprenticeships. That's what would really help quite a number of kids and the economy.

Noooooo! Won't somebody think of the pension! (1)

evilandi (2800) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420568)

Noooooo! This means there might actually be a generation to replace me before I retire!

Programming is pretty much a job for life in the UK. There is currently nobody coming along to replace the existing generation of programmers that learned on the Spectrum, C64 & BBCb.

It's quite common to see grey haired developers these days. We've got nobody under the age of 38. I employed my first great-grandfather last month.

That said, our generation was *particularly* prolific.

Finally a country that understands it (1)

punisher777 (2462418) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420572)

This is a good step for UK school children I just wish the US would require similar courses. I have worked in a college for several years now and have been amazed how little the students know when they start their first programming, networking, hardware, etc. I once had a class of 20 students and on the first day I asked if anyone knew what binary was and not a single student was able to answer, though my expectations were not high in this class because it was a group of Business major students who were required to take an Intro to Computers course for their major.

Computers have become such a fundamental part of our everyday lives that I just find it amazing that students are not required to learn programming or other computing fundamentals. Even if they never program again in their lives the logic processing that students can learn from programming is essential in many positions. When facing issues in their positions it is often beneficial to take similar steps to what you would in programming like in sales you would take a systematic approach to try to sell an item. Sales people have to use a lot of IF/ELSE logic to determine the best way to get the customer to buy an item. For example, my brother used to sell books and every person he went to he always started with the same greeting and depending on how the person responded to the greeting he would use a strategy based on that persons response. If the person said they did not have children so would not need the books he would ask if they had any grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or neighbor children who would benefit from a gift of my brother's books from the person my brother was trying to sell to. Heck, you can even use programming logic to try to make friends [youtube.com]

Another useful reason to do this is to assist future programming college students to determine if that is actually the track for them. At my college we see on average 30% dropout rate after the first to programming classes in the CS major. By the time of graduation we have even had less than 45% of the original students in the program. A major reason for this is that there are a large number of students coming to college thinking that they will land a good job out of college because they have CS training, but when they start learning how difficult programming can be or realize that they are unable to grasp programming logic. This trend is even worse in our video game degree because we have many students who come thinking they will learn how to make visually stunning games but then never make any art in the game and instead have to program pre-existing art resources.

Depends on the teachers (1)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420586)

I was lucky enough to receive an Acorn Electron as a young child and then a little later on, an Acorn BBC B followed by the BBC Master 512. I remember at times being envious of my friends with their Sinclair Z8s and scores of games, but looking back at it now I am so glad I grew up with the same machines they used at school. I remember my dad saving computer programs on to tape that were broadcasted over the radio and I soon became engrossed in learning how computers 'worked'. I taught myself to program in BASIC at around the age of 8 and was lucky enough to have some good teachers who, whilst knowing nothing about programming, allowed me to work on these skills during school hours. For a project on Egypt at age 9, instead of writing about it, I made a graphical story of Egypt with pyramids and sphinx's scrolling by on screen, with text describing the scene.

When I got to secondary school, we had supposedly proper Computer Science lessons. These were awful and rather depressing. The teachers obviously had no clue, they may have had backgrounds in engineering or electronics but anything about computers was dictated to us from very basic textbooks with no practical hands-on time. We had a few Acorn Archimedes that I was longing to play with but for some reason these were tucked away and intead we were plonked in front of RM Nimbus machines with virtually no software to play with. Eventually things improved a little when a new teacher started to take our lessons. Although he was not a coder, he somehow guided me into learning some machine code and from there I progressed into Pascal, C, etc. As far as I know, it wasn't part of the syllabus but he could see that's what I needed to learn and gave me the freedom to go learn it.

As far as I understand, things havn't much changed over the years. Computer Science (or whatever they call it nowadays in UK schools) is less about the science and more about using a computer to do general tasks. The only way this will change if schools have access to teachers who understand the science and the thought processes required to get down and dirty with a computer.

Worked for me (1)

fleeped (1945926) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420674)

While( I was in the last high school classes)
....I was being taught programming using pseudocode

If ( you have a knack for this sort of thing)
....It can work out really well when looking for a relevant uni degree
....You can then
........Study( Computer Science )
........Study( Maths )
....And be a happy geek forever after, with a good (logic && algorithmic) background
....goto die
else
....You will (suck at it) && (hate it)
....And boo computer geeks forever after
....goto die

It clearly worked for me
My writing skillz have become unsurpassable
Fortunately I wasn't taught Huffman, else I would have been modded "troll - random bytecode"

die:
exit(0)

GED (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 3 years ago | (#37420812)

So instead of a GED they can now earn a BOFH?

About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37420846)

But will the teachers be able to teach it?

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