The situation in England
There's an unfortunate, but interesting, situation going on in England right now. The Government has decided to scrap some qualifications in Information Technology, because it believes that the new Computer Science qualifications cover the same ground more than adequately.
There are a number of interesting issues that are called to mind about this development, and not least by the way it was handled.
For example, the announcement was made on page 11 of an 18 page document issued by the Government. One might think that a major change would merit a little more publicity.
Another issue is that many more students currently take the IT qualification in question than Computer Science, and some people fear that in future, students who want to study IT but not Computer Science will have no options left to them.
The Government is promoting Computer Science above IT, when not only are they different (and could therefore continue to co-exist), but also IT and ICT (Information and Communications Studies) are taught in many other countries in the world. Does the UK Government know something that UNESCO, the European Union countries, and Australia (to name just a few) don't?
There are rumors that a vocational option for IT will be encouraged. That could be very good, although in England vocational qualifications have tended to be regarded as the poor cousin of the more academic ones.
The most up-to-date development is that a petition has been raised and now contains over 1500 signatures – well over the number required to have the issue revisited by the Government (as I understand it).
Is there anything that technology co-ordinators can learn from this?
While democratic Governments have the power to pretty much do what they like, they do tend to govern with the consent of the people on some level. In England, for many years ICT and IT courses have been criticised as being too dumbed down, and in my opinion there has never been enough of a convincing response to that. In fact, one might argue that if it ever gets to the point that one has to respond at all, it is already too late.
I think that everything, not just charity, begins at home. As a technology co-ordinator or teacher, there is much you can do to prevent your beloved subject being marginalised and possibly scrapped. For instance:
- Make sure that course you teach is so exciting and interesting that kids can't wait to get to your lessons – and can't stop telling people about it. Word of mouth is a powerful agent.
- Make sure the Principal and other key people know what is going on, and how great it is. Offer to write a short report for them once a semester, or invite them in to lessons to see what the kids are doing.
- Involve the parents. Make sure they know what their children are doing. Maybe even organise special technology briefing evenings.
- If you haven't done so already, start a digital leaders group and give them special buttons to wear. It all helps to raise the visibility of the subject.
- Forge links with local businesses, and involve them in the subject. Perhaps you and they could run a special project once a year, in which teams of kids work on a major problem for a day, with the results judged by the local company staff.
I'm sure you can think of many more ways to keep the subject alive in your school and in your community. You may not be able to prevent funding cuts or other kinds of ax – but you can have a darn good try.
About Terry Freedman
Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT and Computing consultant in England. He publishes the ICT in Education website at www.ictineducation.org.