Great computer science debate

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY classes once consisted of little more than a fiddle about on Word and Excel.

Samuel Chan

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY classes once consisted of little more than a fiddle about on Word and Excel.

With the dynamic modernization of computing syllabuses in the UK over the past few years and the dawning realization that skilled digital workers have lucrative careers ahead of them, could Hong Kong students attending British schools and universities be in the right place at the right time?

In 2012, the government felt compelled to respond to scathing reports compiled by scientific institutions about the state of ICT instruction in schools by overhauling the subject.

Change arrived and, crucially, UK exam boards refrained from drawing up new curriculums in a hasty manner. For instance, the AQA computer science curriculum, which includes fundamentals of programming, cyber activity and software development, was created in cooperation with Microsoft, while the Royal Academy of Engineering and Google have also given their own input.

UK independent schools have always had blossoming after-school technology clubs but schools now accept the notion that computer science should also be a GCSE or A level.

Truro School, for instance, only recently introduced computer science as a GCSE option and has also secured computer science as a mandatory subject between years seven and nine.

It is also worth noting that a number of independent schools, such as Epsom College, have introduced computer science as an iGCSE. The qualification has an intriguing syllabus in store for 2017-19 with in-depth tutoring on programming concepts, databases and security.

I understand Hong Kong parents who expect their children to follow in their own footsteps - to become business people, doctors, lawyers and teachers. Yet, how can we turn children away from computers if they are passionate about them?

Certainly, there are sectors which should continue to flourish: internet- based apps, web design and programming in the field of computer games. Graduates also get jobs at the big banks and social media companies. Intriguingly, if we are to believe the figures, the UK will require around 750,000 trained digital workers by next year.

However, this does not mean a computer science graduate can walk straight into a top job because soft skills are still sought after by employers.

I cannot say that Hong Kong undergraduates in the UK absolutely must go down the computer science route, but there is food for thought here when one considers the digital world we now live in.

Samuel Chan is the managing director of Britannia StudyLink. www.facebook.com/ukchitchat