‘Peculiar’: Man Uni experts attack plans to scrap ICT GCSEs and A Levels in 2017

Scrapping ICT GCSE and A Level because they’re too similar to computer science is like saying ‘stitching footballs and playing football are the same thing’, argues a Manchester professor.

The Department for Education (DfE) disclosed plans this week to abolish ICT GCSE and A Level qualifications from September 2017.

The government argue that ICT will be discontinued because it shares a ‘similar space’ to the prospering computer science qualification.

It has emerged however that almost 10,000 people do not agree with the plans, signing a petition to stop the qualifications from being scrapped.

Professor Richard Heeks, Director of the Centre for Development Informatics at the University of Manchester, told MM: “The problem is that the ICT qualifications got a bad reputation because one part of the curriculum involves transferable skills of using software.

“So it got tarred with the brush of ‘getting a qualification for using PowerPoint’. But that’s only one small part of what is examined.

“The government says that the ICT and Computer Science qualifications are in a ‘similar qualification space’ but that is not the case.

“The government’s claim is akin to saying that stitching footballs and playing football are the same thing.”

Professor Heeks added that ICT is largely social science while the computer science qualification ‘is science’, which is different.

“In a university, they [ICT and computer science] are taught in completely diffferent faculties,” he said.

“The former helps students understand, use and manage digital technology. The latter helps them to make digital technology.”

Former education secretary Michael Gove announced plans to replace ICT with a computer science qualification in early 2012.

He called the ICT qualification ‘demotivating and dull’. 

The official disclosure was in a consultation document released last month which called for views on the development of content for A Levels and GCSEs.

After the announcment, it is reported that a number of teachers sent letters of complaint to the DfE.

David Spendlove, head of initial teacher education at Manchester’s Institute of Education, told MM: “[The reform] is typical of Michael Gove’s knowledge focussed reforms in that the unintended consequences were not considered.

“The main issue was that while ICT had developed a bad press, it still served a purpose and offered something in terms of broad information and communication skills.

“Computer science is very different so it would seem short sighted to think it simply replaces ICT as both are very different.”

Prof Heeks added: “It certainly seems peculiar, given we know the digital economy is going to be come ever-more important in the UK, to remove the relevant qualification taken by thousands of children.

“If there’s an issue with exam content, then revise rather than remove the curriculum.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “These rigorous new computer science qualifications, backed by industry experts, will give pupils the skills they need to progress to further study and a range of top jobs.

“We want to encourage more pupils to study this new high-quality course.

“The inclusion of computer science in the EBacc reflects its rigorous academic standards and entries have more than doubled in the last year alone, demonstrating the increasing popularity of the subject.

“It is no longer necessary to redevelop further qualifications in the same space and pupils will no longer be able to start IT GCSE or IT A Level from September 2017.”

Image courtesy of TU Pictures, with thanks.

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