Computing and technology education in Scotland ‘lagging behind’

Written by Tom Freeman on 15 June 2016 in News

Computer science and computational thinking should be taught from age five, says leading computer science educationalist

Temporary lego shelves - credit: Jacob Davies​

Scotland is ‘lagging behind’ its competitors in providing education in computing and technology, a leading computer scientist has warned.

Computational thinking is now a core part of the curriculum from age five in England, whereas the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence currently focuses on basic ICT skills in primary.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Learning through Technology conference, Professor Judy Robertson of the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh said Scotland was not valuing the right skills.


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Scotland’s skills gaps required a future workforce with an ability to design new technology, not just use it, she said.

“Scotland is lagging behind in computing education. We might talk a good game, we might have national strategies for this that and the next thing, but actually in terms of educating children not just how to use technology but how to create technology in the future we’re not doing so well in comparison to other countries,” she said.

The last ten years have seen New Zealand, Germany, India and South Korea revise their computing education, according to Robertson.

“Sure, kids need to know how to use Word and how to use power point and so on,” she said. “Those are surface-level skills. We need people who can think at a very deep level about how to design new technology, to understand technology.”

Computational thinking should be taught from primary school, she argued, including the concepts of abstraction, algorithms and data structures. This could include learning how to build systems by sorting lego bricks, for example.

Robertson’s speech was part of Holyrood’s Learning through Technology conference, which included presentations by school pupils and Young Scot on how primary age children can be ‘digital leaders’ in schools, and showcased a number of new learning tools to enable digital learning in classrooms.

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