Read on for information about a free spreadsheet of qualifications!
We recently saw the publication of the Roehampton Annual Computing Report. It makes for grim reading on the whole. There’s a massive disparity between the number of girls taking Computing and the number of boys, as several of us predicted would happen. This was also a trend pointed out a year ago: see It Wasn’t Me Wot Done It, Sir! The Depressing State Of Computing As A Subject. The subject appears to attract Chinese students especially, who are proportionately over-represented, but not as many black students, who are proportionately under-represented.. It is also perceived to be very hard.
In short, one has the very strong impression that this qualification is highly elitist. In an era when organisations are falling over themselves to promote diversity, sometimes even seeming to forget what their reason for existing is, it is at the very least morally questionable to promote such a qualification. I suppose that having an elitist qualification is fine, as long as there is something non-elitist available, which is why it was almost criminal to get rid of the ICT GCSE. If the Government does decide we need a more balanced ed tech qualification, I should like to recommend that they take advice from people who have taught both ICT and Computing, and who are not tainted with the (in my opinion) failed brand of Computer Science GCSE.
Nobody should be surprised at the elitist nature of the course. In order to teach the subject you need, or are preferred to have, a degree in Computer Science. To teach others how to teach the subject through the Computing at Schools Master scheme, you have to sign up to a scheme whose very name is sexist, and which calls to mind the master-apprentice or guru-disciple relationship, in which the master passes on their very arcane knowledge to someone -- as long as they are found worthy enough to receive it.
The authors recommend considering a new creative computing qualification, which is right, but which also in itself shows how arid the present one is. Another indication is that I’ve been asked on several occasions to give talks on how to make Computing interesting, and I was recently commissioned by a magazine to write an article on the subject. Also, some of the most popular articles on the ICT & Computing in Education website are on that very topic. If you think about it, that should not be the case: computing is intrinsically interesting, so it takes some effort to turn it into something that’s as dull as ditchwater. (To read some of those articles, see the following article: 6 Ideas for teaching the Computing curriculum.)
If your school is (a) in the position of having lots of students not opt for Computer Science and (b) fortunate enough to have a headteacher who is more concerned about student choice than school performance tables, you might wish to consider the International GCSE. The syllabuses I’ve looked at aren’t too bad, although they seem to lack programming, which is a shame.
All of which leads me on to the fact that I have compiled a list of available ed tech-related qualifications for the UK. You can use it to check what’s available or is going to be available. I have not included any qualifications that are going to be examined for the last time this year. You can download it from the Digital Education newsletter's subscribers’ only page.
As for the Roehampton report, if you’d like to read the main findings, and download the report, go here: TRACER.
This article was originally published, in slightly amended form, in the Digital Education newsletter. This is free, and has been going since the year 2000. If you'd like to find out more, please visit the Digital Education page.