We need science, not more ICT

15th May 2009 at 01:00

It would have been hard to miss the front page of The TES proclaiming the bizarre plan to replace science with ICT as part of the core curriculum ("Science to be dropped as core primary subject", May 1).

I used to "teach" computers, back in the early 1980s. It was great. Mostly it was a case of teaching my nine-year-olds to write simple programs in Basic on a Sinclair ZX81. Needless to say, the youngsters soon outstripped me, but I loved it. So I've nothing against the beasts. I think they're wonderful and the idea that you can simulate practically anything simply by adding a load of 1s and 0s together is almost spiritual.

But I cannot see ICT as the panacea for educational problems. It may be educational heresy, but a computer is just a tool. It is one in a long line of learning aids, like pencils, counters, paint or a library. In fact, a gigantic library is exactly what it has become, along with the internet.

Science by its very definition encourages questioning, observation and hypothesising among other things. Studying ICT is a bit like studying how pencils are made - vaguely interesting to a pencil nerd (if they exist) but not terribly relevant to the wider scheme of things.

We aren't alone in this delusion.

The French are ecstatic about their latest discovery - the whiteboard. They just give it a fancier name - "le tableau blanc interactif". They too think "l'Informatique", as they call ICT, will solve all their educational problems.

Most youngsters I know can use and manipulate computers and their networks far better than most adults. So leave the science where it is. We have few enough innovative scientists and engineers as it is without alienating them further.

Michael Todd, Former ICT teacher, Dorrington, Lincolnshire.

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