Facebook and Microsoft partner up with UK Government

By: James | Posted On: October 19, 2012

Facebook, Microsoft, IBM and BT have been signed up by the Education Secretary Michael Gove to offer industry insights into the type of computer science skills British school kids need to be equipped with for the workplace.

According to the DfE, Facebook, Microsoft, BT and IBM will expect fresh-faced teachers trained in the CompSci discipline to demonstrate an understanding of concepts and approaches that include algorithms, data representation and logic.

Earlier in the year, Gove described IT lessons as ‘catastrophically boring’ (confirmed in our own analysis of the situation a few months ago). Those remarks followed some choice words from Google’s Eric Schmidt last year when he warned that Britain was throwing away its computing heritage by focusing on arts teaching at the expense of computer science.

Furthermore, The Royal Society’s Shut down or restart? report in January highlighted the highly unsatisfactory state of ICT education in the UK, recommending that every child should have the opportunity to study the rigorous academic discipline of computer science.

Today, though, the government has revealed another plank in the strategy — announcing measures to attract a new generation of computer science teachers that have the skills to teach bona fide computing, rather than run lessons in how to use Excel (thank God).

Perhaps inviting Microsoft along to help create the new syllabus was unwise then. But, hopefully, the Facebook camp will intervene to make sure we don’t return to the dark days of graphs and pie charts. Although – as the first name in online procrastination – Facebook’s pedigree as an “educator” is also somewhat in doubt.

A £20,000 scholarship was also announced for graduates with a 2.1 or first class degree to train as teachers in the CompSci field, which is currently suffering from a major skills gap. But the criteria don’t exactly appear to be very strict. It is not restricted to students of the sciences, for example, and all arts students are welcome to apply.

While the new Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) is looking for scholarship candidates who can show “exceptional knowledge” and “enthusiasm” in Computer Science, it also gives a nod to the Silicon Roundabout by noting the need for “technology creators and entrepreneurs” which is a promising sign.

The cabinet minister is also axing funding for teacher training courses in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which the Department of Education (DfE) has labelled as “outdated”. Instead, ICT will be replaced by Computer Science lessons from September next year.

According to the DfE, Facebook, Microsoft, BT and IBM will expect fresh-faced teachers trained in the CompSci discipline to demonstrate an understanding of concepts and approaches that include algorithms, data representation and logic – which sounds dangerously boring to me. But I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

It can’t get any worse.

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About The Author

James is an aspiring writer and academic magpie. Currently attempting his third degree at Cambridge, he plans on being Prime Minister one day. He blogs about digital curiosities.

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