A new initiative which aims to equip young people with the education and skills they will need to excel in the digital economy is being launched at the University of Glasgow today (Friday 1 September).
The Centre for Computing Science Education brings together experts from the University with Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Agency, schoolteachers and industry to make computing science accessible and valuable to all.
The Centre aims to help place computing science at the heart of education, shifting the subject from its traditional position as an optional course usually taken in late secondary or tertiary education. Instead, academics from the University’s Schools of Computing Science and Education plan to play a key role in making computing science as fundamental to learning, from the earliest stages of schooling, as mathematics and other sciences.
Nations around the world are focussing on computing science education, as governments recognise the vital importance of having a workforce with the skills to create new digital products. The widening digital skills gap in Scotland alone has led to around 10,000 vacancies going unfilled in the IT sector each year.
The Centre of Computing Science Education will conduct research to determine the most effective methods of teaching computing science, review existing research from the last five decades of teaching, and help to create robust new curricula, developmental progressions, and teaching techniques.
Quintin Cutts, Professor of Computer Science Education at the University of Glasgow, will play a key role in directing the Centre’s activities. Professor Cutts has already contributed to the Scottish Government’s computing science education agenda, helping to develop the revised Experiences and Outcomes / Benchmarks for Computing Science, announced in April, which shapes the computing science education of all pupils in Scotland between the ages of three and 15.
Professor Cutts said: “The new Scottish curriculum for computing science is truly a world leader, drawing on results from the computing science education research literature which have incorporated sound developmental progressions found in few, if any, other curricula.
“Schools of education have been studying the teaching of numeracy and literacy for generations, but computing science hasn’t been researched with anything close to the same rigour. The Centre for Computing Science Education will build on the foundations laid by the new Scottish curriculum to help the country compete effectively on the world stage.
“Digital technology is quickly becoming the key driver of innovation in societies and economies across the world. It’s vital that Scotland - and the UK as a whole - has a workforce which thoroughly understands digital technology and has the high level of engineering skill required to push that technology forward.
“We can’t simply teach students how to use products like Microsoft Office and expect them to succeed - they need to have the computational thinking skills required to imagine and develop new products for themselves. Embedding computing science in education from an early age will be hugely important in helping achieve that goal.”
The launch event will be attended by distinguished guests including Shirley-Anne Somerville, MSP, Minister for HE, FE and Science; Simon Peyton-Jones, FRS, Microsoft Research and Chair of Computing at School UK; Sally Fincher, the University of Kent’s Professor of Computing Science Education and Dr Sue Sentence of Kings College London.
Minister for further education, higher education and science, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “We want all young people in Scotland to have the skills they need to thrive in our modern society and in the workplace, and to create a pathway into high quality careers in the growing digital technologies sector.
“We must take advantage of the opportunities that digital technology offers to tackle the attainment gap and maximise the opportunities technology offers to improve delivery of education and prepare our learners with the skills required for the workplace.
“I am delighted that this new centre is being hosted at the University of Glasgow as it celebrates 60 years of Computing Science as a subject. The new centre is a unique combination, which brings together expertise from both the School of Computing Science and the School of Education within the university to support improvements in Computing Science education.
“Throughout our education system, we are working to equip all young people with the digital skills they will need in learning, life and work and to be able to contribute to and participate in growing Scotland’s economy.”
Professor Cutts added: “2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the installation of the first computer at the University of Glasgow, the first educational institution in Scotland to purchase a computing system. It seems appropriate, then, for us to be launching the first Centre for Computing Science Education this year. We’re looking forward to working with our partners in government and industry to help deliver the computing science education learners deserve.”