Leading tech entrepreneur urges Scottish Government to abandon requirement for teachers to have a degree

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 29 December 2017 in News

Ian Ritchie, who developed the first commercially available web link browser, called on the Scottish Government to abandon its requirement for teachers to have a degree relevant to their subject, and hire more industry professionals

Image credit: Pixababy

A leading tech entrepreneur has called for a review of teacher training to boost the declining number of computing teachers in Scotland’s schools.

Ian Ritchie, who developed the first commercially available web link browser, called on the Scottish Government to abandon its requirement for teachers to have a degree relevant to their subject, and hire more industry professionals.

“We’ve got a real crisis in teaching in schools with 15 percent fewer computer science teachers now than we did 15 years ago — that’s really scary,” he said at a tech futures seminar organised by Holyrood magazine and technology firm Leidos.

“The reason that there is 15 percent fewer computer science teachers is because headmasters can’t hire them.

“A computer scientist can get a more rewarding job for a lot more money elsewhere.

“One of the problems here is that teaching requires you to have an appropriate degree. I know a woman who has spent the last 15 years at Oracle and she decided to become a teacher.

“Her degree was in geography. There is a hell of a lot of computing in geography these days, but that is not recognised, so she was much more up to date than I am and I’ve got a computer science degree.

“But in order for her to teach she had to get a computer science qualification and then do teacher training, so that is three years out of your life and when you’re in your 50s you’re not going to do that.”

Brendan Turley, general counsel at Leidos UK & Europe, said some modern apprentices are better than university graduates.

“There is an enthusiasm there,” he said. “They’re very young, but they’ve been working for a few years and they’ve decided this is what they want.

“A lot of the young people we’ve brought in on the modern apprenticeship scheme see computing almost like an engineering skill — when they’re programming they’re ‘on the tools’.”

However, engineering is it is still widely viewed as “men’s work” by large sections of society, including many school girls who abandon their early enthusiasm as peer pressure forces them to conform to female sterotypes.

Turley said: “My daughter is in her first year and Edinburgh University doing maths, and interestingly every teacher said to her: ‘So, are you going to be a maths teacher?’

“But there’s computer science, while everything we touch and use have maths in it. It’s actually the teachers you have to talk to. Maths and physics open up the future.”

 A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We want to broaden the range of people entering the teaching profession while maintaining the highest standards.  

“Teaching in Scotland is an all graduate profession and it is only right that teachers are qualified in the subjects they will teach.

“We will continue to work with the GTCS to ensure the entry requirements meet the needs of the profession. 

"We are investing heavily to help recruit and retain teachers.

"In addition to creating innovative new routes for people to enter the profession, we recently announced bursaries of £20,000 for career changers to train to become teachers of priority STEM subjects.”

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