Computer science in schools

 

Sir, – Further to your recent article “Ireland needs to switch on or be left behind in computer science” (January 20th), Ireland had a Leaving Certificate computer studies course. I operated it from 1982 for over 20 years as a Department of Education-supported pilot programme in schools, mainly in the Limerick area.

It was pointed through the CAO system for entry to a number of higher education institutions as a science subject. I designed and reviewed the curriculum, trained the teachers, set and marked all examinations and project work for about 15 years. I also benchmarked it against other Leaving Certificate subjects that indicated that it was appropriately challenging. Many pupils not going on to third level found that, having completed it, it greatly improved their employability. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment was, at that time, not interested in developing a national curriculum along these lines.

Those interested might refer to the recently established UK National Computing Curriculum which, reassuringly, is very similar to what I had implemented and my concern with establishing computational thinking in schools.

A vital aspect of this is to have pupils designing, coding, testing, debugging and documenting software. There is a lot to be said about this.

Rather than going into detail, I would strongly support the development of a serious national strategy for the establishment of a Leaving Certificate computing curriculum, including the necessary teacher training.

It should be a full subject beyond tinkering with other subjects like mathematics and applied mathematics. – Yours, etc,

EAMONN McQUADE,

Emeritus Professor,

University of Limerick.