20 November 2017
Isn’t it embarrassing that so many British children are still computer illiterate? How have we reached a stage in 2017 where the conversation around tech centres on the ‘kids’ knowing more about devices and how to use them, when in reality there’s a huge knowledge gap. This is despite teachers doing their level best and continued promises of new skills and qualifications. It’s not enough to know how to download an app or install a software update. There’s no room for a qualification centred around how to use the Microsoft Office suite and little else.
We need to start teaching young people how the tech works, how to be secure online and how to create the tech innovations of the future. I know we constantly talk about the skills gap in the digital industries. Thankfully, it isn’t just talk and many businesses are taking matters into their own hands like we are with the launch of the UKFast Dean Trust School in a couple of years’ time and with our MSc and working partnerships with more than 60 schools reaching 57,000 young people across the Greater Manchester region and beyond. We’re also teaching the teachers with our free Linux training sessions and LPIC exams onsite at UKFast Campus.
The numbers don’t add up
A column in the Guardian today made for stark reading. According to the piece, only 20% of girls took ICT/computer science at GCSE and 67% of teachers believe that they can’t teach coding because of a lack of ‘skills and teaching tools’.
We’ve been into schools where they have four computers for a class of more than 20. Teachers wheel the PC trolleys in and out of each classroom as needed. There are youngsters being taught the basics of code, with no devices, simply using pens and notebooks!
Yet at the other end of the spectrum, when you look at schools like Schools21 in London, the difference is huge. It’s not a private school, nor is it in an affluent area, yet, every child has a subsidised iPad. Every lesson weaves technology throughout.
Of course, it’s not the teachers or the pupils who are at fault. Teachers are doing their utmost to fight an uphill battle with dwindling resources and growing red tape.
Our economy relies on these skills
I can’t get my head around it! Surely our economy is relying on these skills? Just look at the BBC today, there’s an article on there discussing the youngest billionaires. They’re brothers who’ve made their fortune with two software innovations. The second of those, Stripe, has earned them funding from the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk and Paypal’s founder Peter Thiel. The business is valued at £7bn. Their first business, Auctomatic, which helped businesses sell on ebay, sold for £3.8m in 2008.
Are digital skills still too alien to the people who actually drive the decisions that would change education? Amber Rudd has shown that some of the more technical terms within her role cause some confusion. Is that something reflected throughout government? I’m not sure.
What I am sure of, though, is that we are making progress. The uptake in our Code Clubs is phenomenal. The response to our upcoming school launch has also been incredible. There’s the hunger for these skills from young people and we need to feed that!