Editor's comment

11th April 2008 at 01:00
The internet safety course, now being offered to all students by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, shows that Scotland can be a leader - perhaps even a world leader - when it comes to educational innovation. The course is relevant, up-to-date and interesting, as reflected in the fact that pupils can even access it via their mobile phone.

The same, however, cannot be said for computing studies, if university academics are to be believed. They claim that current computing courses are irrelevant and boring and fail to prepare students for higher-level study. Their warning should be taken seriously because, if Scotland is to develop a strong knowledge economy, it cannot afford to ignore computing development.

But if pupils find the current computing studies courses a turn-off, and schools are starting to remove the subject from their curriculum, either because of low take-up or budget pressures, we will become refugees in the digital world.

The evidence from computing teachers suggests that some of them are being cast adrift by headteachers and local authority officials who have failed to grasp the difference between ICT, the core skills that equip us for a computer-dominated work environment, and computing, which is essentially the science of what goes on inside the technology.

It can be argued that ICT is a cross-curricular skill which need not be taught by a subject specialist; the same cannot be said for computing studies. Not so long ago, computing teachers were in considerable shortage; now they have been consigned to the same level of demand as classics teachers. If they are not to suffer a similar fate, their subject appears to be in need of re-tooling - even if that requires a makeover every three years to keep up with one of the fastest-changing and most important of global industries.

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