Should Digital Literacy be on a par with Maths and English?

Well, a recent House of Lords select committee report suggests it should be. Are they right?

Consider your everyday routine, and compare that with the balance of the primary curriculum. How much time do you spend using applying mathematics, how often do you find yourself writing for a purpose and how often do you use technology, either for work or pleasure? Where I teach, children have five maths and english lessons a week and one computing. Whilst there will also be elements of ICT woven through the rest of the curriculum, I would argue the balance is not a reflection of the real world. There are also so many opportunities in the computing curriculum to develop skills in the current core subjects.

Why is Digital Literacy Important?

Let’s consider some statistics, borrowed from the (American) hour of code website:
– At current rates of growth, by 2020 in the US there will be 1 million more computing jobs than computer science students.
– 60% of all maths/science based jobs are in computing, only 2% of maths/science degrees are in computing.
– 57% of US bachelor degrees are earned by women. Only 12% of Computer Science degrees are awarded to women.

Depending on your point of view this is either a fantastic opportunity, massive skills gap, complete scandal or all of the above. Why is it then, back in the UK, that there have been 17,000 fewer applicants to Computer Science courses since 2002 (source nextgenskills.com)? The answer can only be that Computing and digital literacy has not been given the profile it deserves, and you can bet that where there’s a skills gap of this magnitude there is and will be emerging economies only too willing to pick up the slack.

What can we do?

A House of Lords select committee is a start. However, how many people saw this report in the national news? A report which could be the pre curser to a once in a generation shift in our education system. This change is probably at least two years away from passing into legislation and then it will take years more for it be be implemented, and this is a best case scenario.

We must do our utmost to force this on to the news agenda. The upcoming general election offers us a unique opportunity to lobby MPs, candidates, leaders and campaigners to push this crucial issue on to the agenda. Share this post. Tweet your MP and candidates. Write to ministers. Phone phone-ins. Do what ever you can to make this an election issue.

The future of our economy depends on it.

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Should Digital Literacy be on a par with Maths and English?

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