Leading videogame guru David Braben (Elite, Lost Winds, leading light of UK trade body TIGA) confirms that ICT teaching in UK schools is dire

“every kid I talk to says ICT is dull. They hate it. The majority is learning how to use certain MS [Microsoft] tools and how to find the on and off switch.” … “That is such a far distance from what I’m talking about, where self-driven learning happens. I think it was very well meaning to try and make ICT universal but I think it’s backfired.” He called for computer science teaching that “actually taught programming and all the things which are exciting about it.” The problem was particular acute, he felt, for those children who could not use PCs at home. “For those who didn’t have access to computers it just confirmed the fact that they weren’t interested.”

His comments follow reports that the Royal Society are setting up an investigation into why ICT teaching is so poor

“Since 2006 there has been a 33 per cent fall in pupils taking ICT GCSEs, and numbers taking A-levels in ICT have fallen by a third in six years. The number of candidates taking A-level Computing has fallen 57 per cent in eight years. … “ICT and Computer Science in school seem to turn these young people off. We need school curricula to engage them better if the next generation are to engineer technology and not just consume it.”

Part of the problem apparently lies in the failure to recruit quality teachers, which has led to a dumbed-down curriculum that any 2:2 can teach by rote. A mildly-obsessive techie nerd — someone with the drive to keep pace with the ever-evolving world of ICT, and just the sort of person you want in front of a class of bright kids — would rightly run a mile from teaching ICT in British schools. A deeper part of the problem seems to be that our secondary education system and its follow-on ‘youth training’ & unemployment-handling routes are still deeply stuck in a ‘mass industrial’ / ‘mass retail’ / ‘mass secretarial’ mindset about the world of work.

15 years of hand-wringing reports, committees, and failed initiatives have failed to make a dent in the national picture. But if there is to be real reform, perhaps via ‘serious games’, then let’s hope that intensive search literacy is put at the heart of it.