On this, the third day of e-Skills Week 2012 I’m going to take a look at why we should be investing time and effort into educating our younger generations in all things IT. The IT industry itself is one of the few that experienced growth during the economic downturn, but astonishing latest estimates reveal that 90% of jobs across all sectors will require a certain level of digital literacy in the near future. A McKinsey study reckons two-thirds of the jobs that will be created from now until the end of the decade don’t yet even exist today (it was difficult enough to try to explain “search copywriter” to my Gran!), yet many European countries are failing to equip their youth with the necessary skills to embrace this trend, let alone establish and maintain the EU as a cutting-edge, world-class ICT sector player.
It may come as a surprise, seeing as most kids and teenagers are whizzes when it comes to the internet and social networking, but more profound technical knowledge and interest is meagre.
In the UK, education secretary Michael Gove believes the existing ICT curriculum is partly to blame, even going as far as to say it has left pupils “bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers”. He echoes the sentiments of Androulla Vassiliou, EC Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth who insists that the education and employment industries must work together to develop 21st century syllabi.
“Behind the Screen” is e-skills UK programme in place to handle the re-design of the IT curriculum in England. Working in close partnership with employers across the board, the organisation aims to make learning more dynamic and the curriculum more encompassing, to develop in students the interest to look beyond the screen.
This comes at a time when school pupils in Australia have been found to read better online than offline. Some schools Down Under are even offering their students takeaway laptops, but is this a step too far? Critics suggest too much reliance on technology could leave its mark on the more traditional skills of spelling and maths. Uncontrolled access to the internet also raises questions of child safety online, a topic I addressed in a previous blog post.
In the end, it all seems to wind down to good old balance. While it’s important to equip students with practical skills, giving them too much on a plate could do more harm than good to their critical and analytical skills. No pressure then on those in charge of updating Europe’s aged curricula… “Behind the Screen” is right on it, and promises to place a lot of focus on developing systemic thinking, logic and problem solving skills. But for now, while new programmes of study are only in their first stages of development, kudos to initiatives like e-Skills week that exist to make the ICT industry more appealing and to inform future professionals of their opportunities in the field.
When I was at high school in Latvia, computer classes were definitely of the “bored out of my mind with Excel and Word” type, and most of us spent more time on Frype, Facebook’s Latvian arch rival, than we did learning. I’ve since learnt to regret my ignorance working in a job that requires the regular use of Excel…
Were you taught any computer skills at school or university? Have they proved valuable in your work? Let me know of your personal experiences both in the UK and abroad.