Its official cos Michael Gove at the DoE says so . And I’m able to put my hand up and say, its true. I agree with a Minister on something. And it’s not just that computer lessons are dull (and therefore not inspiring the next generation to explore careers in IT). Neither are they actually teaching our children the skills they and the nation needs to prosper.
I’ve written many times on the state of computing education in this country, and the risk to National Security this poses. I dont normally put it quite that bluntly, but thats how it is. If we cant get UK national interested in ICT and InfoSec, we will have to import talent. There are computer sciences courses up and down the country full to the brim with high-fee paying foreign students. In many cases, some this country’s best academic are teaching Chinese students on how to build, fortify and then hack secure systems. This is bad.
As an analogy, we are currently starting to think about teaching our children to drive, 20 years after the invention of the motorcar. At the same time as the Top Gear team are teaching the French how to drive on our roads. See? Ridculous. And a bit unnerving, especially if you’ve ever driven through the middle of Paris in a car you’ve not yet completely finished paying for. I’m told this analogy doesnt work, but you know what I mean…
So we’ve all agreed that this is a Good Thing. But what are the problems with teaching Computer Science in schools? The main one is of course, resource. Where are the teachers going to come from? Mr Jones who teaches Third Form History isn’t suddenly going to become a godlike figure teaching entropy and key mat transportation. The attractive young French mistress isn’t suddenly going to start discussing routing tables or penetration testing. So it got me thinking, how can we do this? How can we get a fast track Computing Sciences curriculum delivered into schools before it’s too late?
And the answer is so startlingly obvious, it was a bit of a shock to discover nobody else has thought of it (or if they have, it’s in some other obscure little blog on Public Sector Security). We have lots of foreign students studying Computer Science at our elite instututions. All of them need a visa to come in. Why not make it a condition of their visa that they either write the curriculum or teach Computing Science? They get the undoubted benefit of having to structure their thoughts and learning so it can be explained to other people, and UK school children get the benefit of being taught Computer Science by some of the brightest subject matter experts in the world.
Ah you say, but they aren’t natural teachers with many years of teacher training. Brilliant, get some of the teachers in post at the school to coach and mentor them, work with them, and the knowledge starts to disseminate to the actual teachers. You get rapid information dissemination, an educated pupil base, an educated teaching base and maybe even a few foreign students who want to stay as they like teaching??
This idea isn’t a million miles from students studying Language degrees, where a condition of the course is a year living abroad, or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) arrangement funded in part by the British Council. The benefit calculated by the British Council for funding this is very long term in its return, whereas this idea probably delivers a slightly faster return and gets past our current Computer Science issues.
So, less chat about what a problem we have, and more action on getting it done before we are dependent on UK nationals for securing our most important systems please.