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Computing at School: Tackling the ICT Education Crisis in UK Schools

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Computing is one of the richest, most exciting disciplines on the planet, yet any teenager will tell you that in the UK we are systematically teaching our children that ICT (as it is called in school – “information and communication technologies”) consists of little more than learning to use Word or PowerPoint. Over the last two decades, computing at school has drifted from writing adventure games on the BBC micro to writing business plans in Excel.

This is bad for our young people’s education, and it is bad for our economy. It is also quite fixable, but the inherent inertia in the educational system requires a clear message and case for change, from the classroom right up to the Secretary of State. I will describe the challenge, outline solutions, and invite your participation in a debate about both ends (what are we trying to achieve) and means (how can we effect reform?).

Having a decent education system in the area of IT and computer science is important. If we leave it to someone else, they’ll screw it up. We have to roll up our sleeves, and now is the time to do it.

Speaker’s Biography

Simon Peyton Jones is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft’s Research Lab in Cambridge, and a visiting professor at Glasgow University. His research interest is in the design and implementation of functional programming languages, especially Haskell and its compiler GHC . He is Chair of the UK Computing at School Working Group, whose goal is to put the excitement and rigour of computing science back into the school curriculum.

This talk is part of the Wednesday Seminars - Department of Computer Science and Technology series.

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