Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's the state of computer education in New Zealand schools?

This interesting comment was recently on the British education system's failure on computer science.
 Google chairman Eric Schmidt has attacked the British education system, saying a failure to appreciate the importance of computer science was holding the country back in the digital age. ...
He said he was shocked that computer science was not taught as standard in British schools, adding: "Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made."

Do we still teach students how the chains and gearing on a bicycle works? Do we still teach students how a car works? Do we still teach them how transistors can amplify signals?

If we don't we should. They may never build a bike, car, or audio system but we should give them some idea of how the technology works.

I don't know that we could teach every student how to program (Some people are temperamentally unsuited to programming) but we should give them an overview of how programs work and how to design and build them.

I can't see why the powers that be don't want to teach it. True, it involves actually thinking through what we need to have our citizens prepared to take advantage of as yet unknown technical opportunities, but surely that is part of building a curriculum. Unfortunately what seems to be happening is we are only teaching students how to be consumers of commercial packages, not how to create and improve the software.

Liz Quilty, a friend of mine, reports
One daughter wanted to take digitech next year as an option, i looked at it and realized they were teaching how to use office pretty much and told her no [...] she learnt it at the beginning of primary, it was used as a major part of the curriculum right through primary, and i think that is not uncommon nowdays to have kids using technology.
So the secondary schools are basically going to "teach" children how to be users not innovators and to boot it's what they have already learned in primary school.

I fully agree that you need to know how to use computers and common software (Word processing, spreadsheets, databases, browsers) but if you never learn how these things are built you will never be able to go beyond the imagination of the people who have put them together and it will be much harder for you to be a creator in the next technological wave.


Leigh Hunt has published a blog entry with similar thoughts and more information.

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