Learn.scot is an initiative from Digital Scotland, one of our action projects intended to advance our ambition to build a world leading Scottish digital nation.
However despite these noble aspirations, the teaching of the core computing skills required is ‘in crisis‘, with enrollment and staff numbers in decline. Professor Bill Buchanan describes how Computer Science is “crashing” out of the curriculum.
Indeed decline is too mild a description for what’s happening, it’s more accurate to say the topic has one foot in the grave, being on a rapid downward trajectory towards complete oblivion:
🚨Did you know in 2001 there were just over 28,000 pupils who picked Computing Science and over 9800 females. As of 2020 there was just over 9800 pupils who picked Computing Science and just over 1800 females.
The subject is in crisis!
— Digital Technology Education Charter (@DTECharter) June 11, 2021
There really isn’t a more stark contrast between our ambition to build a world leading digital nation, and our actual progress towards that goal. We’re quickly racing backwards away from it, not progressing towards it.
There isn’t a day goes by that a politician doesn’t make the point that digital skills are the building block of the modern economy, but yet Scotland and the UK are experiencing a widespread digital skills shortage.
How can we possibly hope to address that gap if the primary feed into that capacity, computing education, is in such a dismal state?
We can’t of course. That’s why we need to take action, and Learn.scot is our small contribution towards this imperative.
Grass Roots Action Plan
The first step has been to sign the Digital Technology Education Charter. No one is working harder to raise awareness of the issue and champion the collective action to work together to address it.
Next, as Cloud experts and digital entrepreneurs, our main value to contribute is to provide technology that can assist the initiative, and also to help define a world class computing curriculum. Learn.scot offers a variety of tools for new models of digital education, and we’ll populate the content through organizing speakers and classes covering the latest cutting edge topics from the tech world, from the Blockchain through Cloud Computing.
This will offer the critical dimension of offering learning that is the most current and relevant to modern workplace needs.
In addition to this the other much larger campaign is to work with the many teachers and other industry folks working at the coal face to address the challenge. There are a plethora of great ideas and feedback, that identify the core curriculum challenges, being shared online that can be compiled into a strategy and actioned, for example:
Apologies as I don't know how long this ranting thread will go but I have a lot to say and much of it we were shouting about 15 years ago for CS education… https://t.co/nODePkak7y
— Mr Brown (@InvernessHighCS) June 13, 2021
All the above are key points, but without adequate staffing we simply cannot implement anything meaningful. We need a radical rethink in how we train and recruit teachers and offer alternative pathways to just simply University alone. The induction scheme also needs to evolve.
— Mark Stewart (@CompuScot) June 13, 2021
The solutions are available, including models that deliver results for learners, employers and partnership working. What it takes is leadership to scale this up, coupled with the right level of investment in curriculum innovation, staff skills, and a 21st learning environment.
— Lydia Rohmer (@Ly_Ro) June 12, 2021
The reality is quite a difficult one to pin down and there are many reasons why CS is struggling, sadly at a time when we're needed most 1/n https://t.co/xOEUrariI5
— Chris Aitken (@skipperAitken) June 13, 2021
Reducing the number of subjects the pupils could do at N5 level has killed us. Still huge pressure for pupils to take 3 sciences etc over Computing Science
— Robert Young (@Winaukee) June 11, 2021
I think what we saw with @CompSciScot, #cssmeets and the like is that grassroots works. Teachers don't really need one or two appointed people (who don't work in schools any more) to represent them. https://t.co/bCmmRBjRVZ
— Fraser McKay (@mrmckaycomp) June 13, 2021
An independent Scotland needs a strong tech sector and that requires more computing students at school, college and university.
Investment is required to train/hire more computing teachers and to reinstate lost computing labs. Investment that will pay for itself many times over.
— Greg Reid (@GregReidCS) June 17, 2021