Quoth Mel:

Tom is 15 and started studying for his GCSEs this year. He chose to do double-IT but he’s very frustrated and disillusioned with it because there is no programming involved even though he was promised there would be. Instead he spends several hours a week learning how to make a spreadsheet and stuff like that. Here’s a link to a mock exam paper for GCSE ICT (this is the “basic” paper – Tom is doing the basic and the higher)


And here’s one for the higher paper:


You’ll be horrified, Alec.

Sample extracts as images, click the originals above for PDF text; the EFTPOS one I will give them a bye for, at least it encourages some degree of systematic thinking, but the first two, sheesh, no wonder so many students I am meeting are self-taught / seeking experience…

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  1. Er, hello, welcome to the 1990s. If there’s one thing more shocking than the awfulness of the ICT curriculum since Microsoft got their sticky mitts all over the education sector, it’s how many older adults are STILL unaware of the scandal. I sat a paper very like this five years ago. It was over ten years old then.

    I’m 100% self-taught as well. Everybody who grew up in the 1980s is completely unappreciative of all the massive advantages the BBC’s computer literacy program gave them over the generations who came after (and before), which presents a problem when they start to be in charge of hiring people younger than them.

    There’s a very good reason 90% of programmers are in their 30s.

    Sorry for ranting, but I’ve grown very annoyed at the scale of general ignorance of this problem. It isn’t news. Every time I read a ‘news’ story about how ICT lessons are ‘substandard’, or witness somebody who had all the advantages I never had discover for the first time exactly what I had to suffer through, I can only think: where were YOU twenty years ago?

      1. Oh, it starts much younger. This is the PEAK of computer science in the compulsory schooling years. Before GCSE level you’re lucky if a lesson includes something which isn’t Microsoft Office.

        I’m currently taking a CS undergraduate degree. On day one, it literally started with teaching everyone the basics of how programming worked. I’ve had about six different lecturers patiently explain to me what Boolean algebra is. And, of course, everybody’s infatuated with Java, so even when some actual code does get written (which is rarely – they much prefer UML diagrams and work cycles and other such twaddle), you’re still not learning how computers work, only playing in a mollycoddled sandbox.

        This is the stuff which should have been covered in primary school, now considered to be degree-level knowledge.

        The rot runs much, much deeper than I think you suspect.

  2. I wondwr if they would accept double arrows on E because the comms to the keyboard goes both ways. Dont believe me, look for xleds.

  3. @Max, the comms between all those things go both ways – even in the 90s, PS/2 keyboards exchanged information on demand from the host, USB ones certainly do, and displays (well, VGA ones) have had a data channel to the host for ID and so on since the 90s, too. I suppose *technically* it says “screen” which you might suppose is *just* the screen part of a display, but I can easily imagine interested kids knowing enough to put both-ways arrows on, while figuring the question was trying to catch them out (because it’s just too noddy otherwise). Or something.

    It’s all a bit disheartening.

  4. I was at Acorn 20 years ago, so saw the rot set in from the perspective of an incumbent vendor being displaced. Microsoft nobbled the LEAs by whatever means (I didn’t personally see it), as coding and learning about what was actually inside the beige boxes became actively frowned upon, and not only did “computers run Windows”, but “things that did not run Windows, were not computers” (I actually had kids tell me this with perfectly straight faces, although I never actually heard the one about how “Bill Gates invented the Internet” except as satire). Sadly, some folk in Acorn also forgot to install appropriate sanity-filters, and the end wasn’t that long in coming.

    That’s the whirlwind we’re reaping – modulo the folk in their 20s and younger who are self-taught, or had parents in the industry who taught them about it, rather than leaving it to the curriculum. Napoleon may have referred to us disparagingly as “a nation of shopkeepers”, but Gates’ minions actively tried to turn us into “a nation of secretaries”, and we’ve lost a bunch of potential engineers from a whole generation.

    Still, not for nothing are the two versions of the Raspberry Pi called “Model A” and “Model B”…

  5. Em …. I got told I was odd for encouraging my kids to muck around with computers to watch me fix them …. My ten year old can set up proxies …. To bypass school and get to BBC education site…. Reset passwords and know the importance of complex but simple. She learns by failing and researching as I did in the 80’s. I hadn’t realised everyone didn’t do this …. I’m glad I didn’t now .

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