This isn't directly about Raspberry Pi, but it's *fantastic* news. I wouldn't normally copy and paste an entire article to this board, but the only coverage I've been able to find so far is from the UK Times, which is behind a paywall most of you won't be able to get past. The URL for subscribers is http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/.....165320.ece
Secondary school children are to be taught computer programming skills under a new pilot initiative that will ultimately develop GCSEs and A levels in the subject, David Willetts, the Science Minister, announced today.
GCSE pupils at about 20 schools will take part in the Behind the Screen project, which aims to transform the information technology curriculum so that children can learn not only to use software but also to write computer code for their own purposes.
The pilot, which will start in November and run until the end of the school year, is supported by several computing companies including IBM, Google, Capgemini, Microsoft and Cisco, which will contribute to course development.
While information and communication technology is a compulsory part of the national curriculum, computer scientists and programmers have long argued that this course does not meet the demands of the digital economy as it does not offer opportunities to learn to write computer code.
The new pilot will instead develop a course that will teach computational principles, software development, computer coding skills and logic, so that pupils develop the ability to create software for themselves.
Mr Willetts, who launched the initiative at the British Science Festival in Bradford, said he hoped the pilot would begin to address criticisms of the ICT curriculum raised last month by Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, in his McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.
Mr Willetts recounted how Mr Schmidt said: ‘Your IT curriculum focused on teaching how to use software but gives no insight into how it’s made. You’re throwing away your great computer heritage.’”
Mr Willetts continued: “That’s a point that has been put to me and my colleagues in the Department for Education a lot over the past few months, and I can announce today that it’s being tackled.
“There’s going to be a live pilot over two terms in schools of a programme that is going to transform the IT curriculum, away from computer literacy, which we believe mnay young people can do earlier, to move instead towards how they can develop software, computational principles, how they can create their own programs. We think that’s exactly what Eric Schmidt was calling for.
“We hope that after the pilot, where industry will be providing a lot of the learning resources, there will then be a programme that the examining boards, who support this in principle, will be able to use to support the construction of new GCSEs, new A levels. That in turn will improve the flow of pupils with these kind of skills into universities as well.”
Mr Willetts said: “I want to see the ability to create software, to write programs, that is one of the key functional skills for the 21st century, and young people going through school, college and university should have the opportunity to take part.”
The project was welcomed by computer scientists. Tom Crick, senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, said: “There is a perception that ICT and computing are the same thing, but there is a big difference between using a computer and understanding it. Kids tend to think of computers as magic black boxes: they can use the software, but they don’t learn how to write it. If we want to drive digital innovation in the economy, we need to have these skills.”
John Graham-Cumming, a programmer who is campaigning for coding to be taught to primary school children, welcomed the pilot. “Children first need to learn to be literate, then they need to learn to be numerate and finally they need to learn to be ‘algorithm-ate’,” he said.
However, he added that ideally children would be introduced to computer programming at the age of 9 or 10. “We know that the core ideas can be learnt by little kids. If you taught reading really late people would form the view that it’s really hard and it’s the same for programming. If you don’t show children what it is they’ll develop the view that it’s hard, or even worse, dull by the time they’ve reached GCSE,” said Dr Graham-Cumming.
He said IT and programming were different skills. “IT is such a dull-sounding subject that conjures up helping someone out because their printer doesn’t work. It’s terrible that in the public’s mind programming is the same thing, because actually it’s like painting or writing in that it’s creating something new. Microsoft, Apple and Facebook were all started by people who knew how to programme.”