Wednesday, 25 March 2015

England adds Coding to the National Curriculum


England mandated coding in their national curriculum in June 2013. The former Education Secretary stated that this new curriculum was designed to raise standards and allow students to compete in the global race. That it was designed to be a long term solution for addressing the digital skills gap and to create opportunities for jobs and careers in the future. 

Rachel Swindenbank, of Codecademy, is the lead on the initiative in England. The new program has three key elements: Computer Science (a focus on computational thinking - coding is a key part), Information Technology (How computers and telecommunications equipment work and how they can be applied), and Digital Literacy (responsibly and safely navigate the world of digital technology - Digital Citizenship).

In September 2014, students in England began learning the fundamentals of programming. Students, beginning at age 5, learn the basic concepts of computational thinking, algorithms, decomposition and pattern recognition through visual programs like Scratch. At age 11 they begin to learn more text based coding.

Concerns or push back in England? Jennifer noted that there is little concern of pulling resources from other areas because it was replacing a very outdated curriculum and coding can be used as a creative too. It can be used to express art, music and anything your imagination can come up with. She describes two implementation challenges: One, teachers didn’t have the knowledge to teach programming. This was addressed through professional learning (provided by the government and other organizations like Microsoft, Google and Codecademy). The second challenge was that teachers didn’t feel ready or confident to teach computer science. However, now after one and a half terms, Jennifer describes how the experience of being in the classroom teaching it and the engagement and excitement of the students is slowly beginning to remove this concern from the classroom.

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