back to article That new 'Microsoft GCSE': We reveal what's in it

Exam board AQA's head of accreditation Mary Jane Newman has revealed a few more details about the so-called "Microsoft GCSE", which will be taught in Britain from September. The Redmond-backed ICT GCSE with-real-actual-programming aims to redress the big fall in pupils taking the qualification, counter accusations that the …

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  1. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Up

    Good words

    I like the suggestion that no one language is mandated, that makes sense. I welcome the idea that ICT as taught at the moment is a load of bollocks.

    I ought to be against Microsoft's involvement, but I'm not. It is likely that the target systems the kids will be programming will be things like the Arduino or the Pi, and M$'s programming products have always been quite good anyway. I think the youngsters should get a decent spread of ideas before they have to do it all properly at University.

    Fairly positive about the whole thing, really.

    1. Miek
      Linux

      Re: Good words

      "I like the suggestion that no one language is mandated"

      I too like this statement, but, it lead me to think "What choice will these students have?" and "What might their choice of language be considering that they are likely to have no programming experience?".

      Essentially, the decision over which languages or technology to use will rest with a school board or the teachers themselves. This could be good, bad or just me being paranoid.

      1. Aldous
        Headmaster

        Re: Good words

        your choices will be:

        1 )vb.net which we have loads of free textbooks and training materials from the nice people at Microsoft and is the only language the teachers will be trained in (if they don't have any prior experience)

        2) any other language you like but we have no books and we don't know how they work so don't come crying to us for help because you choose to be different.

        pretty much had this at college and university both in the MS academic program

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good words

          > 1 )vb.net

          It will be c#. TFA says the kids can pick from gaming, web, mobile or traditional development.

          In other words they can choose from Visual Studio with XNA, Visual Studio on it's own, Visual Studio with the Metro stuff or Visual Studio again.

          1. Robert E A Harvey

            c#

            Not convinced. Hope not.

            If the kids end up trying to make athletics day timers with a raspberry pi it might well be python.

            A lot depends on what the projects will look like - there is an opportunity here for some intelligent vendors to bundle up some hardware, a dev environment, some examples and some teaching material.

            I'd like to throw in a word for http://processing.org/, but I don't suppose anyone involved in delivering the programme reads elReg.

          2. jonathanb Silver badge

            Re: Good words

            Or, given that they probably still have the same computers that they had when I was at school, BBC Basic.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Good words

              Or, as they're probably using Windows machines, BBC BASIC for Windows, with a school licence for about £200.

        2. npo4
          Alert

          Re: Good words

          VB.net is what put me off programming in school, but it seems I was lucky to experience any programming in the first place...

          I would argue at least something object-oriented would be better, but I will agree that VB is pretty easy to learn.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Good words

        "Essentially, the decision over which languages or technology to use will rest with a school board or the teachers themselves. This could be good, bad or just me being paranoid."

        It will probably end up being a compromise. Just like some schools do French, some do German, some do Spanish... You need the teaching resources in place. I expect there will be a smattering of different approved options but no more (they'll need to be able to provide exam papers, after all). I wouldn't be surprised if Javascript is a popular language for this. The thought chills my blood, but it seems probable. It's directly translatable to them doing things on the web. Windows 8 actually lets you program Metro apps in Javascript + CSS + HTML5 so they can actually deploy stuff straight onto a popular OS if they want to and the development tools for it exist and aren't too hard to learn.

        I'm not really much in favour of teaching programming at GCSE level. I think it inevitably gets treated at insufficient depth and it will all have to be re-done at University level again later. And really, whilst it's a great skill, it's so little directly applicable to many people's lives. If you do Science, then you may not become a scientist, but at least it raises the scientific knowledge level of society. Ditto History, etc. You can pick up programming and other directly career related skills later on if you choose to, and they'll be better taught, too. And yet, there are two things in favour of this: One - this has to be better than the instantly out of date crap that they call ICT at the moment (and would be better called Secretarial Skills + Dangerous Fragments of Knowledge). And two - we need to do something about the state of programming in this country. I suppose if this drums up interest and stokes ability, that is at least something. It might give the self-learners a better start.

    2. Si 1

      Re: Good words

      I'm not so sure about the lack of any guidance on programming languages. If it's anything like my computer science degree where every lecturer rolled out their favourite obscure pet programming language (including one lecturer who'd written his own) I think there's a risk of kids being taught a language that has little industry demand.

      While I do think being exposed to so many different languages helped hammer home how similar most of them are and how easy it is to learn a new programming language from scratch, I can't say I've ever had cause to use my skills in things like Eiffel or SmallTalk and would rather have had more time getting deeper into C or Java.

      Still, if the alternative is everyone leaving school with just Visual Basic skills I'm all for a little diversity!

      1. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Good words

        "I think there's a risk of kids being taught a language that has little industry demand."

        14 year olds start this next year? So 6 to 10 years before they get anywhere near the job market. What was industry standard 10 years ago? Where is it now? What devices will people be using in 6 to 10 years?

        Perhaps some kind of transferrable skill (including the ability to pick up new languages) might be a better idea.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      M$'s programming products?

      > M$'s programming products have always been quite good anyway.

      You gave yourself away there, no real technical geek would use the phrase 'programming products', no such thing. There's compilers, linkers and debuggers ..

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: M$'s programming products?

        "You gave yourself away there, no real technical geek would use the phrase 'programming products', no such thing. There's compilers, linkers and debuggers .."

        Which if you don't want to keep typing "compilers, linkers and debuggers...", you might just refer to as 'programming products'.

        1. Nuke
          Headmaster

          @h4rm0ny - Re: M$'s programming products?

          h4rm0ny wrote :- "if you don't want to keep typing "compilers, linkers and debuggers...", you might just refer to as 'programming products'"

          Maybe, but GP was right. "Product" is marketing droids' language. .

          A geek would have said "MS languages", "MS stuff", "MS software", "MS IDEs", or even "MS development suites" - anything but "MS programming products".

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: @h4rm0ny - M$'s programming products?

            "Maybe, but GP was right. "Product" is marketing droids' language. A geek would have said "MS languages", "MS stuff", "MS software", "MS IDEs", or even "MS development suites" - anything but "MS programming products".

            Well good job I'm not a geek, just an old programmer. Oh wait, I don't work in marketing and never have, and yet I'm fine with the term programming products, so doesn't that mean you're not the arbitrator of what professions are allowed to use what terminology. So instead of programming products you offer the following options:

            "MS Languages" - Well that's innacurate because they're referring to more than just languages.

            "MS Stuff" - Well that's even more innacurate because it obviously encompases a tonne of "stuff" beyond direct programming languages and tools.

            "MS IDEs" - That's not too bad except it doesn't quite necessarily encompass the languages themselves.

            "MS development suites" - See MS IDEs. Just synonyms, really.

            I don't see why "MS programming products" should give you such conniptions. If it's made by MS, it's a product they sell and its purpose is programming in some form, it's covered. Your aversion to an everyday word like 'product' is bizarre. They make it, they sell it, it's a product. You go and abide by your little "Geek" rules and I'll continue to enjoy the full range of the English language. Cheers!

            1. Robert E A Harvey

              Re: @h4rm0ny - M$'s programming products?

              Well quite.

              I make a casual, easily understood, remark and am suddenly guilty of a thought crime.

          2. Hardcastle the ancient
            Coat

            @Nuke - M$'s programming products?

            >"Product" is marketing droids' language.

            And how is that inappropriate in the context of Microsoft?

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: M$'s programming products?

          Visual Studio is the nicest profesional C++ dev environment out there. It beats emacs+make+gdb

          But that doesn't mean you should teach kids it. It's like saying we are replacing your crappy metal work tools with a class on how to change the oil in a BMW 5series, just because it's a nice car

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: M$'s programming products?

            "Visual Studio is the nicest profesional C++ dev environment out there. It beats emacs+make+gdb"

            I totally agree. However, it doesn't beat vi+make+gdb at all!

            1. Hayden Clark Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: M$'s programming products?

              Or even NetBeans. That will do an assortment of useful languages - Java, C, C++, PHP, Perl (via plugin).

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: M$'s programming products?

        "No real technical geek would use the phrase 'programming products', no such thing. There's compilers, linkers and debuggers .."

        So, about each of these "products" which you describe, used to "program" things ... have you heard about these new fangled thingies called "abstraction" and "generalisation"? They're really great for facilitating effective communication. Would you like a class diagram maybe?

      4. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

        Re: M$'s programming products?

        >You gave yourself away there, no real technical geek would use the phrase 'programming products', no such thing. There's compilers, linkers and debuggers ..

        What a bloody stupid comment: of course they're products. Linkers are not. If you need to clarify this, when was the last time you downloaded (yet alone bought) a Microsoft linker that was not supplied as part of something else? I would venture to guess that no such product exists, even going back to when MASM was the bee's knees.

        No fan of Microsft's development systems here, but if you're going to criticise try and do so with a little credibility.

    4. Eeep !

      Re: Good words - don't forget Netduino

      Don't forget the Netduino when mentioning Arduino and M$.

  2. Eddie Edwards
    Stop

    Yuck

    Can we not call it the "Microsoft GCSE" please? It makes it sound less than relevant. The "Furber GCSE" sounds much more awesome.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yuck

      But calling it Computer Studies GCSE will get far fewer people shouting about MS and much less F5 related advertiser income for the Reg...

  3. Jeffrey Jefferson
    Thumb Up

    My ICT teacher at school...

    My ICT teacher at school had an IQ which was below 0.. At least some of the teachers may have knowledge about programming etc.

  4. Greg J Preece

    Sounds excellent to me. When I was in high school (in my 20s, so not that long since) there was no ICT in our school at all below A-level, and that course was such a joke that I switched schools to do A-level Computing instead.

    They since got GCSE ICT, and it's not much better. Seems to be a "how to use Office" course for a decent chunk of the time. I wonder if they still have that room full of Apple LCIIs, for the "top sets"...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: ICT

      ICT is not Computer Science, it is pretty much "how to use office", it's also how to use computers and other tech more generally, but it's not supposed to be taking the lid of and tinkering inside, or programming etc.

  5. Lockwood

    At college, I taught the programming lecturer how to do some neat programming tricks.

    And by that, I mean "functions built in to the language"

  6. The BigYin

    What's in a name?

    "Redmond-backed ICT GCSE with-real-actual-programming"

    So the school will be pressured into making the kids will learn Visual Basic, maybe C# and some ASP? Or will they be taught some actual real skills in a vendor neutral manner?

    I am not sure how much the new GCSE is "Redmond-backed" and how much is just ElReg spin. But the taint of MS should be kept out of education wherever possible.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: What's in a name?

      MS don't really back VB, and C#/.NET ARE very valuable real-world skills (C~ can earn you more than Java in the UK for a start).

      Clamouring for 'neutrality' has to mean you can't clamour for schools to use Linux because then that's just as partisan. Ideally both would be covered however for basics of programming you can use nearly any language on both anyway.

      1. Tom Wood

        Anyone with a proper education in computer science

        can program competently in several different languages, and is not afraid to learn another (and can quickly do so).

        Of course a GCSE level course isn't going to teach kids that much depth, but it's still important to realse the distinction between "learning the basics of how to program in <insert language>" and "learning the basics of how to develop software". If they are taught the *reasons* for why they are doing what they are doing, rather than simply being allowed to bash together chunks of code until they have something that seems to work, then they will find it much easier to adapt to other languages in the future.

      2. dogged

        @JDX - Whole lotta hatin' going on

        Your comment looks remarkably accurate to me.

        But you said linux advocacy was being partial and you failed criticize Microsoft for everything, including the Black Plague and the destruction of Atlantis.

        Therefore, the commentards will downvote you anyway. Accuracy isn't popular around here anymore.

        1. Nuke
          Headmaster

          @dogged - Re: @JDX - Whole lotta hatin' going on

          This is getting deep, but it was JDX who brought up the subject of Linux. The post (by The BigYin) he was criticising made no mention of it. I think both their posts have good points except for the straw man that JDX raises in his second sentence.

          There are vendor neutral, platform neutral and free languages available in both Windows and Linux. Perl, Python, and C for example.

          No matter what people say about programming skills being transferable between languages, people get attached to the first one they learn. So it IS a concern if MS get them hooked on C# for example.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What's in a name?

        "however for basics of programming you can use nearly any language on both anyway."

        Exactly. Teaching the fundamentals of programming is what is required. As someone else mentioned, no one knows what languages will be the "popular" ones in 10 years time.

        Back when I did GCE "O" and "A" level Computer Studies, BASIC was the high level language and CECIL was the low level language. We were told that something call COBOL existed and was used for "business" stuff. Later, at the local Polytech. we learned BASIC and COBOL.

        Icon....because we still had some teacher who wore their gown to prove they had a real degree. One even wore his mortor board :-)

        1. The Real Tony Smith
          Coat

          CECIL?

          Point of order...

          I'm sure it was CESIL (Computer Education In Schools Instructional Language)

          It involved filling out coding forms and sending them off to the local authority to be typed in then run overnight on a mainframe.

          Most of the time the printout came back with 'Syntax Error at line 10'. Ahhhhhhhhh, those were the days....

          I'll get me (very old) coat

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: What's in a name?

          Most Polytechnics had a requirement to be more business and industry focused than Universities. Normally, where there was a University and a Polytechnic in the same city, there was a requirement from the syllabus authority that the two establishments put different emphasis on what looked like similar courses. This is why a lot of Polys had courses like 'Business Computing' rather than a pure Computer Science course.

          When a lot of these courses were originally designed in the 1980's, business computing was based around Cobol, the most commonly used business language at the time (RPG was also common, but I would not suffer any student with learning that as their primary language!) although there were several BASIC orientated business systems (DEC RSTS and Pick spring to mind).

          For schools, BBC BASIC was a brilliant choice, because it was structured enough to satisfy most programming purists at a fundamental level (OK, while loops were missing, and complex data structures were a bit difficult), it was fast enough even on modest hardware to do quite impressive looking things to encourage staff and students to try ever more complex tasks, and it was accessible to people with very little previous knowledge.

          It also encouraged teachers to learn some programming themselves to help teach their non-computing subjects (because it was relatively easy), rather than as just a support for computing related courses. Currently, teachers have no incentive to learn any programming at all because the initial learning curve is too steep.

          I believe that there is absolutely nothing that I have seen then or since which was better as an introduction to computer fundamentals as the BBC microcomputer and BBC BASIC. Updated in a modern windowing OS, with hooks into the GUI and OS (as it was in RISCOS), and it could still be the best thing around.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: What's in a name?

            "For schools, BBC BASIC was a brilliant choice, ... OK, while loops were missing"

            WHILE loops can be implemented with REPEAT/UNTIL (just as REPEAT loops can be implemented with WHILE), and WHILE/ENDWHILE itself appeared in BASIC V in 1985.

            "BBC BASIC. Updated in a modern windowing OS, with hooks into the GUI and OS (as it was in RISC OS), and it could still be the best thing around."

            BBC BASIC for Windows. bbcbasic.co.uk

      4. The BigYin

        Re: What's in a name?

        @JDX - Clamouring for 'neutrality' has to mean you can't clamour for schools to use Linux because then that's just as partisan.

        Huh? Linux is a kernel for many competing operating systems that exist in a vibrant eco system with actual competition and innovation. But I never mentioned Linux (or BSD or anything else). If you want to talk "neutrality", then I would say that any F/OSS software is light-years ahead of any proprietary stuff simply because the F/OSS coders have no real desire/need to deliberately create lock-in by designing/implementing inconsistent and incomplete 'standards'. Nor do the stuff the ballot of major standards bodies to try and give a veneer of credibility.

        I just think the companies should be kept out of education as far as is possible (but obviously someone needs to print the books etc). So no fizzy-drink sponsored textbooks which are little more than adverts for fizzy-drinks. No junk-food companies running the canteen. Heck, we should keep the corporates out of various places. Why do our hospitals also host junk-food provenders FFS? It makes no sense.

        Then again, I have odd views when it comes to companies and sponsorship. For example - at the Olympics I would only serve the athletes McDonalds. Why? Well McDonalds was allowed to be a sponsor of a sporting event, so they must be selling the best food for athletes. It's not like some suits will just have accepted a wodge of money and paid no attention to the message they are sending, is it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's in a name?

      My ICT GCSE taught us to use Microsoft Word, and how to make databases in Microsoft Excel(!). We did have the option of Microsoft Access, but the tuition was in Excel.

      We also did DTP in Microsoft Publisher.

      My AVCE had these, and also Microsoft AutoCAD, Microsoft Visio.....

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Re: What's in a name?

        Microsoft autocad?

        i think the folks down at autodesk might have something to say about that :-)

        (but i do know what you mean... i think)

        1. Lockwood

          Re: What's in a name?

          I apologise.

          We used it once. 10 years ago. I made a cube.

          Something made me think it was "MS AutoCAD 2000"

          The basic point still stands though that we were taught to use MS products back then...

    3. Matthew 25

      Re: What's in a name?

      So what if kids learn VB or C#. The important bit is learning the thought processes and analysis that go into creating a program, be that in Java, C++, Python, Ruby, Objective C or even Object Pascal (or Delphi) Implementation is secondary to good design.

  7. mark1978
    Linux

    "How to use office" is pointless. That's as pointless as "how to use a computer" as pretty much every kid picks this up from an early age anyway.

    What needs teaching is the stuff you aren't going to learn at home, eg. Programming of course, but also managing file systems, configuring a network of servers etc etc.

    Yes, this stuff is often quite specific but by teaching specifics you get the generality too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah...

      And while we're at it, let's stop teaching people to write and do maths, if they need it, they'll be sure to pick it up at home.

    2. Ian Yates

      You say that

      but using word processing software (like MS Word) and knowing how to word process are two different things.

      As a very simple rule of thumb, turning on special characters and seeing a ton of spaces used to indent or align is a good example of someone who has "picked this up" and either ignored or been ignored in how to do it properly.

      /bugbear

      1. The BigYin

        Re: You say that

        @Ian Yates - I always view with special characters on. Drives my colleagues nuts! And yes, I am forever fixing 20 spaces with a tab/ruler change.

      2. David Paul Morgan
        FAIL

        Re: You say that

        Centre justified numbers in word and excel tables annoy me.

        Right-justify, fixed decimal or use the decimal tab.

        Nor product specific. They have not "picked up" how to do this week or correctly.

    3. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      A complete GCSE course amounts to 150 hours contact time. Throw in the sidetracks and disruptions inevitable in even a well-behaved class and you are looking at around 100 hours that actually count. That's not a lot of time: if you increase the breadth of the syllabus the depth of coverage must by necessity become paper-thin to compensate. If you spend that 100 hours covering a hundred specific cases the student walks away knowing nothing about how it all fits together and nothing that is still relevant come the next version of Windows. Spend it on a smaller core of fundamentals and there's a chance the student actually retains something of value and that won't be obsolete in five years time.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "That's as pointless as "how to use a computer" as pretty much every kid picks this up from an early age anyway."

      I work in a fairly well rated Senior School, a lot of the kids can barely change their passwords.

      1. The BigYin

        @AC - I work in a fairly well rated Senior School, a lot of the kids can barely change their passwords.

        That's a good point. How much of this should we expect kids to pick up at home/in their own time? School can't teach everything. Parents and the child's own initiative have to play a part. Of course one needs to balance the amount of time the brats...err...little dears spend hanging out on IRC looking for teh-upl04d-codez and running around being noisy buggers...err...kids.

    5. Chika
      Flame

      Methinks I've mentioned this in other threads over the years. I'm happy that Steve Furber is taking such an interest, but I get very suspicious when I hear the word Microsoft being touted alongside anything to do with education.

      The ECDL, for example, can be very useful for teaching the older folks how to run a PC, but it gets so manufacturer specific that all you get at the end is a clone running whatever Redmond sticks out there. Programming is an art that requires specific talents and skills that can't be learned if you don't have them, and require specific skills to teach as well, not just as far as the people doing the teaching are concerned, but also as far as the tools in use, and I have yet to see anything coming out of Microsoft that matches up to the task.

      Yes, Acorn died painfully at the end of the 90s, but it had something that Microsoft didn't have. They didn't design a business tool then try to turn it to other tasks at great expense. They had a tool that was actually suited for the environment of teaching, both from the programming perspective and from other teaching perspectives, something that certain bodies, notably the government and many clueless governors, never appreciated in their headlong dive into bed with the beast.

      That does not mean that I suggest that the RISC PC is resurrected at this late date, though some of its successors might provide an alternative. What it means is that we need to be very careful about giving Microsoft (or Apple for that matter, though they do at least have better educational credentials) too much influence in the future of our nation's children's skill sets. We need adaptable skills to handle whatever comes up, not a bunch of MS programmed clones.

  8. Valerion

    Revealing what's in it

    So it's 60% Practical, 40% Test.

    Hardly revealing what's in it. I was expecting a copy of the syllabus or something.

  9. AlgernonFlowers4

    Who Needs Computers!

    Just give them a copy of Computer Programming Techniques (A TutorText Book) by Theodore G Scott and those that want to learn programming will.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Who Needs Computers!

      You were lucky - we just had "On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem:" and this long bit of tape.

      1. Chika
        Coat

        Re: Who Needs Computers!

        Made of paper, was it? I know mine was!

  10. moonface
    Joke

    Fact-digesting will account for the remaining 40 per cent of the marks

    Well I suppose the kids will learn something, when they need to figure out how to open those. *.vce brain dump files.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Microsoft GCSE in ICT...

    ... and next year it's the Ideal Standard GCSE in Practical Personal Hygiene - and roaring profits for consultant proctologists, armed in many cases with trowels, whose patients' workplaces are plumbed entirely with Armitage Shanks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft GCSE in ICT...

      That's actually a good idea. If you've met any cleaners they would probably be able to tell you all sorts of horror stories regarding toilets.

      1. Chika
        Pint

        Re: Microsoft GCSE in ICT...

        Yay! Then we can set up Toilet University for our budding little Krytens!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICT for the masses??

    I teach ICT and programming in VB is great for the higher end kids or the kids that love ICT / programming. But the majority of kids either don't like ICT as they are going to be doing hairdressing/joinery or other non ICT related job and don't see the point which is fair enough. Others struggle with basic English, so god knows how they will fair with having to be syntactically correct.

    The point is GCSE age kids have to do ICT like they do maths, so how will they cope? Most I suspect not very well, but I hope i'm wrong.

    1. DJV Silver badge
      Alert

      syntactically correct

      By forcing some of the dumber kids to figure out that creating syntactically correct programs enables them to actually work, it might filter into their use of English as well (well, I live in hope).

  13. Nigel R Silver badge

    syntax

    "they will fair with having to be syntactically correct"

    at least get the spelling write first!!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Some Cold-Steel-Rational Advice

    1.) Stop Calling it "ICT". It is not about telehone technology. It is about "Computer Science".

    2.) Algorithms&Data Structures are the core of "Computer Science". Before the kids learn "to program colorful, silly games with hopping monkeys", the need to learn how to do mundane things like printing the first 1000 prime numbers on the screen. Or summing/averaging/filtering 1000000 lines of a csv file.

    3.) Programming language choice is secondary. Pupils are not supposed to acquire job skills, but conceptual skills which can later be transferred to dumbhatt++, the most popular imperative language of 2020. So Pascal, C#, VB.Net, Perl, Python will all do.

    4.) TEACHERS. If the government had any capable people left, they would figure out how to educate, hire and retain teachers. A good teacher and a couple of 80286 PCs+Pascal compilers can still teach much more effectively than a dud with the latest Intel Xeons running Google Web Toolkit. A competent teacher and the RPI plus Lazarus would be pretty effective, too.

    Maybe they can make math teachers add Computer Science to their skillset - that is something which could be attempted. Computer Science is acutally a very exact thing if you don't confuse it with the colorful stuff from MS, so it should be attractive to Math teachers.

    5.) Grammar Schools. Yes, Computer Science is hard and it does not make sense to teach it before pupils have mastered quite a bit of maths and their momma's language. They need to be able to write about concepts and that means it is not for everybody. Doesn't mesh with egalitarian ideology, but still true.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Some Cold-Steel-Rational Advice

      1.) Stop Calling it "ICT". It is not about telehone technology. It is about "Computer Science".

      No. Leave ICT alone. Well, not completely alone. Strip it down to the essentials. I think someone mentioned "secretarial skills" further up the comments :-)

      Most kids leaving school can benefit from learning the basics of using a computer. Computer Science is a different subject. It's not for everyone, the same as woodwork or biology is not for everyone. ICT as it is, for an hour per week at most, should be one of the required subjects like Maths and English.

      Maybe they can make math teachers add Computer Science to their skillset - that is something which could be attempted. Computer Science is acutally a very exact thing if you don't confuse it with the colorful stuff from MS, so it should be attractive to Math teachers.

      Absolutely! That's where the Computer Studies teachers of yesteryear came from too.

    2. Chika
      Facepalm

      Re: Some Cold-Steel-Rational Advice

      1.) Stop Calling it "ICT". It is not about telehone technology. It is about "Computer Science".

      Agreed to an extent. "Information and Communications Technology" is, if anything, almost a tautology. If the telephone industry wants to use IT, I'm not stopping them, but sticking the "C" in there was just a marketing ploy. IT it was, and IT it still is.

      2.) Algorithms&Data Structures are the core of "Computer Science". Before the kids learn "to program colorful, silly games with hopping monkeys", the need to learn how to do mundane things like printing the first 1000 prime numbers on the screen. Or summing/averaging/filtering 1000000 lines of a csv file.

      A little over the top, but there's a point to it. The problem is that we are talking about children here, and children won't learn unless they are interested in what they are doing. I suspect that the actual method here lies somewhere in the middle - you can leave the whole Data Structure and Algorithm stuff until they are at an age where they are likely to be interested in it and have the skills to actually exercise the knowledge that they pick up.

      3.) Programming language choice is secondary. Pupils are not supposed to acquire job skills, but conceptual skills which can later be transferred to dumbhatt++, the most popular imperative language of 2020. So Pascal, C#, VB.Net, Perl, Python will all do.

      That's an important point. I did my GCE (note the absence of the "S" here) with reference to Pascal but it was my teacher's opinion that the training I got was secondary to learning the skill of general programming so that I could turn my hand to any given language. I'm glad that he did, since I've programmed in many different languages since then, none of which are Pascal!

      4.) TEACHERS. If the government had any capable people left, they would figure out how to educate, hire and retain teachers. A good teacher and a couple of 80286 PCs+Pascal compilers can still teach much more effectively than a dud with the latest Intel Xeons running Google Web Toolkit. A competent teacher and the RPI plus Lazarus would be pretty effective, too.

      The government has few, if any, capable people left. It's the reason why such people as Furber and company have to be brought in to tell them where they have gone wrong and what they can do to correct the mistakes that have been made by successive governments since before the close of the last century.

      Maybe they can make math teachers add Computer Science to their skillset - that is something which could be attempted. Computer Science is acutally a very exact thing if you don't confuse it with the colorful stuff from MS, so it should be attractive to Math teachers.

      And one of the first things we need to do is to finally disabuse this notion that Computer Science requires a high degree of Mathematics. For the majority of Computer Science, the nearest that you get to that is a large lump of logic, a degree of arithmetic and, very occasionally, basic geometry. Nothing else.

      5.) Grammar Schools. Yes, Computer Science is hard and it does not make sense to teach it before pupils have mastered quite a bit of maths and their momma's language. They need to be able to write about concepts and that means it is not for everybody. Doesn't mesh with egalitarian ideology, but still true.

      I refer you to my previous comment. The only time that you are likely to need more than that is where you are dealing directly with higher mathematical concepts for their own sake. For the majority of programming, it's irrelevant.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fear of pies, snakes and penguins?

    Kid should be learning C# and other Microsoft controlled standards!

    What could possibly wrong with a large company owning a operating system, the key software on that operating system and the language software for that operating system is (meant to be) written in? Better than then the latest hippy open and free implementation of some 40+ year old skunkworks project. Come on, think of the children!

    1. Chika
      Devil

      Re: Fear of pies, snakes and penguins?

      Who let the trolls out?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    So what's in it?

    Go on, feel free to tell us if you know...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft Education©

    > Microsoft was brought in to discuss general concepts and "what skills were relevant to industry .. the Practical Programming module .. will consist of two tasks .. The board won't prescribe any programming languages, leaving the choice up to the schools ..

    Any guess as to which platform they'll choose. How many times has Microsoft jumped onboard a standards body only to derail the project. Back in January, the UKs education minister specifically mentioned the Raspberry Pi and 'open source' in relation to the ICT curriculum. Makes one wonder what machinations are going on behind the scenes.

    http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2136810/bett-gove-scrap-ict-curriculum

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Microsoft Education © (part 2)

    "Sixty per cent of the marks for the new qualification will be awarded in the Practical Programming module. It will consist of two tasks, which kids can pick from gaming, web, mobile or traditional development", Reg

    "To enhance student learning with industry required skills and certification the course content for AQAs GCSE in Computer Science is aligned with the new MTA certifications".

    "MTA is a new entry-level credential from Microsoft .. students can choose from a variety of Microsoft courses including gaming, mobile app, software development, networking and web development" link

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft Education © (part 2)

      That doesn't surprise me sadly!

      But then, my sense of humour would probably take over if it was me choosing, and the poor buggers would have to learn this

      Wrote something in BF a while back, but reckon I'd have to learn it all over again just to troubleshoot any bugs!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds OK to me....

    ....given that current ICT GCSE can be passed by knowing how to "use" MS Office and nothing else.

    I think a few people here have no idea how utterly fucked up "ICT" in schools is - and that's pretty much due to the intransigence of the NUT.

    We used to joke about the standard of Comp Sci people a decade ago, compared to the dross now those people are exceptional. E

    veryone leaving school in England now needs to be aware that the exams you "studied" for are complete crap and in most countries 13 year olds are WAY ahead of you.

  20. Tubs

    Have you heard...

    ...there's going to be a new driving test.

    Once you pass it you can only drive Fords.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Have you heard...

      Better than that - you take the test at 16 and you can only drive that model year Ford when you leave college and get a job 5years later.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    its not about MS

    Correct me if im wrong but this is GCSE level standards we are talking about here, the same standards that in several subjects your told when you move to A levels to completely forget because its all wrong...

    No this idea sounds good, but the "type" of language seems to be everyone's sticking point here, well as with all things GCSE level, its a taster, it gives you an idea and opens your mind to the concept, the programing language and platforms used are irrelevant, once the student gets the bug and moves on to more serious and beneficial levels then they can experiment and do whatever they like

    I know this site is majorly anti MS and MS has every right to pump its own products but it really wont matter at all so long as the kids can open their mind to the concept of programing. Like with many things in life, learning a programing language is a lot easier than being ABLE to learn a programing language...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    technology consumers

    Why can't they ban that word 'consumer' it dehumanizes us. We should go back to being called customers or community members like we're supposed to.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: technology consumers

      Better than ####ing "stakeholders" - the next person that uses "stakeholders" is getting one through the heart

  23. toadwarrior
    Meh

    Yeah they say you shouldn't pick a language however while deciding keep in mind they have a pile of IDEs, C# books and other tools for you to have for free and you can trust them, they didn't tell you to use their technologies!

  24. Mark Burgum

    For what its worth i think it really does not matter what langauge they get taught at this level of education just as long as they are taught one - which currently they are not. When i did my computer qualifications at O level i did it on Pet basic after that i used BBC basic Ada and even a bit of cobal. however i have never used any of these commercially but am still working as a programmer.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Headmaster

      I hope you code better than you spell...

      ...or use grammar!

  25. paulc
    Mushroom

    Languages don't matter, it's the concepts that do...

    like object oriented design and structuring programmes properly.

    Design for maintainability should also be pushed by having them modify a program one of their fellow classmates wrote several months earlier to do additional functions. Then they'll appreciate proper comments and good design and proper documentation of that design.

  26. Lallabalalla
    Headmaster

    Traditional web languages?

    I'm starting to teach my 9 yr old how to program games in HTML/Javascript. Let's not forget that those languages are freely available to anyone with a text editor and a browser. Throw in css and or HTML5 and you can do almost anything.

  27. Alastair Dodd 1
    FAIL

    While they are at it can they change it from ICT to IT?

    NOBODY outside of schools calls it ICT

    ICT is also about as redundant as saying PIN Number. Information Communication technology - Communication IS INFORMATION. Just shows how out of touch with their subject they are.

    1. Chika
      Devil

      Sorry, but they do. In my own place of work, they suddenly imported some guy that spent his time tinkering with mobiles and immediately the whole section became the "ICT" section.

      Not that I ever use the term, of course... [VEG]

  28. Trollslayer

    A prefect solution?

    No, but it seems like a big step in the right direction.

    Technology and the related business changes all the time, getting industry involved helps to keep things focussed on what will help children in the real world.

  29. tmcd35
    WTF?

    60%Programming

    So we go from teaching MS Office to teaching MS VB. Once again the designers fail to ask anyone with an ounce of intellignce what real world transferable IT skills kids need.

    No computer history? Networking? Hardware/System Builds? Operating Systems? File Systems?

    Theres more to computing, and more useful areas in IT, than either Office or Programming. Also there are whole ecosystems outside the influence of BIll Gates!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 60%Programming

      So, about that other 40%...

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, it sounds a hell of a lot better that what I had to deal with 9 years ago. The whole sylabus was a joke, we had to create a website for our coursework, and most people did this in MS WORD! I created a website in PHP, and my ICT teacher (a science teacher that was learning the topics 1 week before teaching) didn't understand it so just gave me an A.

    And the exam was probably the worst part, I scored 100%, but that's not much of an achievement when you have questions like 'Name the cell in the below spreadsheet that is marked with an X', and 'Name 2 input devices'.

  31. RyokuMas Silver badge
    FAIL

    Pointless...

    I've just spent two years - ironically the same length of time as the average GSCE - working with and learning XNA, only to find that it's deprecated in Win8, and that I'll have to start again.

    ... unless there's a big u-turn coming up, of course.

    So yeah, no point in taking two year MS course in technology that MS will then turn their back on a year or so after graduation...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ' Microsoft was brought in to discuss general concepts and "what skills were relevant to industry" '-

    Make sure the little buggers are brainwashed to buy our stuff from craddle-to-grave!

  33. Kay Burley ate my hamster
    FAIL

    ICT

    ICT. Does anyone outside of the public sector ever use that name?

    Don't teach them MS, teach them the fundamentals so they understand something beyond "I have to click here".

  34. El Andy

    Step in the right direction

    Frankly if a few students who go on to do Computer Science at uni have some concept of what a variable is and the basics of how a program executes, then this will do a whole world of good. As it stands today it's amazing how many CS students don't seem to have even the faintest idea of how programming works when they first start.

  35. Chewy

    No objection to simple languages here

    As far as I'm concerned the simpler the language the better. After all we are talking about GCSE not university and it doesn't define what languages that those who choose this profession will move onto.

    Limiting the choices to a few languages makes it more likely that the teachers would be able to grade the work. Those that have already interested in programming won't be put off by having to do VB for example. The more time that can be spent learning the basics rather than having to know a language specific syntax.

    With linguistics we weren't even given a choice at GCSE - French/German for the top stream, German for the middle stream, and Italian for the bottom stream.

  36. SpaMster
    Headmaster

    Are they going to send the teachers on courses so they actually know what they are on about? When we started our IT GNVQ at college, the teacher was learning it as he went along, we ended up showing him how to run his course basically, the only training he'd had was a two week night class in Visual Basic. He was amazed when I showed him how to make a ball bounce around in a box dynamically.

    Really hope they have some better training in nowadays .

  37. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Fail

    I would never hire any kid that voluntarily took this course.

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