Hello stranger, it’s been a while. So let’s talk a little about education, shall we? And because this is a blog (remotely) focused on the tech side of things, let’s (also) talk about that side of it.
Recent news in the UK made me think about this a little more than I normally do already (bear in mind I am a parent of two and a governor of the Fallibroome Academy, a high-achieving 11-18 comprehensive school). Education is what drives enlightening. Big words but they are true (and sometimes even literally). In almost all Western countries people ponder and wonder (and sometimes moan and whine) about the state of the education systems: is it good or bad? Is it still up to the challenges of this peculiar 21st Century? Will it deliver to my children what they need to cope in the future? Of course, there are other corners of this planet where the luxury problems of the West don’t apply. The question there is often: will I be able to scrape together the necessary to get any kind of education so I can hopefully eradicate my family and me from the dire circumstances of the life we are facing right now?
This was discussed today in the UK and, whilst I haven’t checked, I suspect that in the last/next two weeks, similar or identical discussions will be led in most of the Western world. No other than the formidable Sir Ian Livingstone (he of Game Workshop and Eidos fame) suggested that computer science is essential to today’s education (he suggested computer science was to ICT as taught in the national curriculum as writing was to reading: one thing is to use an application, an entirely different thing is to be able to write one) and bemoaned the fact the English kids lose out on this piece.
Yesterday morning, I delivered a workshop to a group of 6th-form students this morning at our fantastic school who actually have a Head of IT who can code in C++ and embark on various hands-on courses and workshops. Alas, even though they go over and above the national curriculum and can, due to their academy status, do so, they are constrained by the demands of having to prep children for their GCSE’s and A-levels. Too little too late, it seems. I was heartbroken to having to tell a boy who asked me if he could wait till university to learn how to code properly that he probably shouldn’t rely on that (and our C++ sorceress had to watch).
The most amazing bits and pieces of our modern society rely on code (and most of the modern heroes of business – Jobs, Gates, Page, Brin, Zuckerberg, et al) all relied on code. And yet, I have to direct my son to tutorials of C++ if I want to make sure he’ll get the basics (having gone to law school, I only write in BS#).
There are plenty of opportunities out there though. Apps for Good for one help English schools to get out there with coding; they run courses on Android development. In our school, we also have started to work with students on game and app development (I believe that games are a great tool to excite kids about code: isn’t it much cooler to come home to show dad what you’ve done today on an iPod Touch/Android Phone/BlackBerry tablet than to report that you successfully wrote 4 lines of code on some machine at school?
Our schools can use any support on offer to expand on this. Whether or not it is the new Latin, I’ll leave open, but technology is the future of a large part of our workforce, and we should grant our children the chance to participate in it successfully!