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Gove: 'Students studying ICT might as well learn to send a telex'

Michael Gove has branded teaching about word processing and spreadsheets in schools about as useful as making students learn "how to send a telex", despite the fact that tens of thousands of students currently study the subject. 

The education secretary dismissed the previous ICT curriculum as being "obsolete", even though the most recent figures on the number of students sitting ICT at GCSE had gone up last year.

The comments have left experts concerned that the continuing attack on ICT by the politician has lumbered students with an effectively worthless qualification. 

Back in 2012 the education secretary announced at the education technology show Bett that he was scrapping the existing ICT curriculum and would be replacing it with a new computer science curriculum.

And speaking at the same event in the east end of London on Wednesday, Mr Gove said that the new curriculum, due to be introduced in September, would put an end to students learning a "creaking" ICT curriculum.

"ICT used to be focused purely and narrowly on computer literacy; teaching pupils over and over again how to word process, how to work a spreadsheet, how to use programs that are already creaking into obsolescence," Mr Gove said.

"In many respects, it is about as useful as teaching a pupil how to send a telex or travel in a zeppelin. Now, our new curriculum will be teaching children computer science, information technology and digital literacy. it will teach them how to code, how to create their own computer programs and not just how to work a computer but how a computer works."

Stats from last year showed that more than 73,000 students sat an ICT GCSE exam last year, an increase of 38 per cent on the year before, and thousands more will sit an exam in the subject in the spring.
Bob Harrison, education adviser at Toshiba and leader of an independent computing curriculum steering group, said that Mr Gove was wrong about ICT, but added that the ICT teaching community had to move on.
"I have been making the point [about ICT] for some time. And there's an irony when Michael Gove criticises ICT and puts teachers down by saying it is boring for students, but then asks the same teachers to deliver his new computer science curriculum," Mr Harrison said.
"What he has said about ICT now and back in 2012 isn't reflected in the evidence. But we are where we are now, and I thought his speech today showed an overall warming towards technology that hasn't been shown before."
Miles Berry, board member of IT subject association Naace and principal lecturer in computing at Roehampton University, advised that students leaving with a qualification in ICT should make sure their portfolio of work showed more than just a qualification.
"For those students not able to take the new computer science qualification it is important for them to realise that, yes, getting a range of qualifications is still vitally important," Dr Berry said.
"But also they should make sure they have a much broader portfolio of work that they can show to universities, colleges or places of work, that might give them a better chance of going on to study or getting a job."      


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