Make IT compulsory – get more start-ups.

Young high-tech start-up businessesI must admit this blog sounds a bit as though I’m standing on a soap-box, but a recent comment by Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, rang true with me. He said:

“I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even taught as standard in UK schools,” he said. “Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made.”

Yes I thought, he’s right. We teach how to use software, not how to make it.

This made me think, would teaching Information Technology as standard make a difference to our ability to innovate in a high-tech world?

Innovation has always driven the economy. Just look back to the Industrial Revolution and the inventions that abounded, they were that time’s high-tech.

Today’s innovation tends to centre on software, electronics and biotech, all of which require not just a grasp, but actually a fairly good understanding of the principals behind these technologies. The sort of understanding that can then be used to develop new innovative businesses.

However, schools have increasingly concentrated on “soft” subjects and reduced the time spent on what is thought to be more difficult areas such as science, maths & technology.

I know that we are short of science and maths teachers and the need to meet higher and higher pass rates every year means that schools concentrate on courses that are not as exacting.

It doesn’t have to be this way; though it will require government willpower to change.

We’ve seen an enthusiasm for entrepreneurial activity, with programmes like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice. Nearly all young people have a passion for the uses of technology, with Facebook and iPhone Apps.

So why not put a fresh emphasis on learning why an iPhone works and how to programme an application like Facebook, not just how to use them. Then we may be producing the future innovative entrepreneurs that the economy demands.


2 thoughts on “Make IT compulsory – get more start-ups.

  1. Adam

    I think you make a very good point. It is a common argument from scholars and professionals that their particular subject requires more attention and time in schools. I have always taken a post structuralist approach that within reason, many subjects and skills can be taught within other subject areas.
    For example a philosophical  approach which would develop key analytical skills that are useful for business can be taught in a number of subjects. On the topic of the above post, business ideas can be taught in geography. However the one subject that does not fit this is computer programming,  and at a time when there is a brain drain from Europe and an identity crisis of what Britain’s role on the global market place is, perhaps it is  the one subject that requires educational  investment. 

  2. David Redfern

    What a lot of old tosh!

    We should be teaching core subjects within schools and IT ought to be used as a tool to rapidly get to where the kids need to be. There are only a small proportion of school leavers that go onto careers in IT, the rest use spreadsheets, word processors and presentation software to assist them in their everyday jobs; they don’t need to know what happens under the bonnet. And to continue the motoring analogy, it’s like insisting a learner driver undertake an apprenticeship as a mechanic while they learn to drive when all they want to do is get from A to B. If the kids decide they want to embark on a career in IT, then detailed education ought to begin, and I would argue that’s the job of a University. Too many idiotic subjects, including a compulsory GCSE in Religious Education (nothing more than a political move) crowd the education marketplace when science and the arts are side-lined for easier options.

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