School ICT lessons a 'turn-off', says Royal Society

Image caption,
ICT lessons: Inspiring pupils for the future or turning them off?

Information technology lessons in UK schools are so dull they are putting pupils off the subject and careers in computing, top scientists warn.

The Royal Society said the situation would lead to an unskilled workforce and threaten the UK's economy.

Launching a study of how lessons might be improved, the society said the number of pupils in England doing ICT GCSE had fallen 33% over three years.

And there was a 33% fall, between 2003 and 2009, in ICT A-level candidates.

Now the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, is embarking on a new study: Computing in schools and its importance and implications for the economic and scientific well-being of the UK.

Researchers will look at curricula for ICT and computer science in schools, current exams and assessment processes, training for teachers, as well as the facilities and resources available in schools and colleges.

The study will report back in the autumn next year.

The research is supported by 24 organisations, including the Royal Academy of Engineering, BCS Academy of Computing, the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing, Google, Microsoft Research and several of the UK's leading universities.

'Poorly conceived courses'

Chair of the study, Professor Steve Furber, said: "The UK has a proud history of leading the way in the field of computer science and associated disciplines, from the development of the world's first stored-program computers to more recent innovations such as the invention of the world-wide web.

"However, from this bright start, we are now watching the enthusiasm of the next generation waste away through poorly conceived courses and syllabuses.

"If we cannot address the problem of how to educate our young people in inspirational and appropriate ways, we risk a future workforce that is totally unskilled and unsuited to tomorrow's job market."

Professor Matthew Harrison, Director of Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering said: "Young people have huge appetites for the computing devices they use outside of school.

"Yet ICT and computer science in school seem to turn these young people off.

"We need school curricula to engage them better if the next generation are to engineer technology and not just consume it."

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