Microsoft, Google Back Royal Society ICT Teaching Push

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Tech giants support Royal Society study into how to improve computer science teaching in schools

Google and Microsoft have signalled further support for improved IT education in the UK by funding a study to bolster computer science teaching in schools.

The partnership will see the tech giants join forces with the iconic Royal Society to identify best practices in schools and colleges to help provide the next generation with the necessary ICT skills.

ICT Teaching

The study itself is commissioned by the Royal Society and the research will be led by Professor Stephen Furber FRS.

school teacher's classIt aims to understand the challenges faced by computer science teachers currently. It will study the “progress made since the introduction of the new English computing curriculum in 2014, identify areas that still need to be addressed, and will be used as the basis of a wider action plan to transform computing in schools.”

The partnership with Google and Microsoft will also provide teachers with “high quality classroom resources, guidance, and continuing professional development programmes.”

The study also seeks to develop assessment tools for teachers and help schools tackle the gender imbalance and inspire young girls to take up computing. The plan will also identify opportunities to help young people relate to digital careers through partnerships with businesses.

“As a subject with a rich and vital future, computer science not only needs high-quality teacher training and development, best practice in the classroom, and inspiring materials for pupils; it also needs solid, evidence-based research about what works,” said Professor Tom McLeish, Chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee.

“We are delighted that Google and Microsoft are supporting the research phase of this very important project,” said Professor McLeish.

“In a world where technology is increasingly embedded into our daily lives we need to ensure that the computer science curriculum equips young people to take advantage of the opportunities the digital world offers,” he said.

New Skills

Both Google and Microsoft are well known for their focus on the eduction market.

Back in 2011, Google chairman Eric Schmidt publicly criticised the education system in Britain for failing to ignite young people’s passion for science, engineering and maths.

But the Coalition government took note and in September 2014, the new school curriculum was launched that placed a lot more emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

“We have long said that coding is a really important skill for young people,” said Mike Warriner, UK engineering director at Google. “Learning to code will be vital for the jobs of the future, it makes you better at problem solving and logical thinking, and most of all it is great fun.”

“This is a great initiative from the Royal Society to discover new ways to engage the UK’s teachers with computing and give them the skills they need to inspire the next generation of coders,” Warriner said.

“Our collaboration with the Royal Society is part of our overarching YouthSpark programme which aims to increase access to computer science education and encourage young people to explore digital skills and careers,” said Hugh Milward, director of corporate external and legal affairs at Microsoft UK.

“The UK economy will require 745,000 additional workers with digital skills by 2017, which is why quality computer science education in schools is vital,” said Microsoft’s Milward. “This project will help shape and inform computer science education best practice and support educators with rich materials to inspire the next generation in whatever career they choose.”

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