The ’3 R’s’ alone are no longer enough.

I published on my blog earlier today a very good video (What most Schools Don’t Teach…) that highlights one of the plights of modern education today – that is, what, exactly should global economies be including in their education provision and curriculums to help prepare youngsters for the world of work tomorrow and beyond?

The video highlights what I consider to be a black hole that exists throughout education around the globe. The basic fundamentals of the technologies that help shape our world are simply not being addressed within curriculums worldwide despite being ‘mainstream’ for some 30 years.  This is not simply about ‘code’, but the use and teaching of information and communication technology in general.

We all use computers in one form or another (from the digital watch on our wrists through using our Macs, PC’s, tablets, mobiles, vehicles we drive and the countless technologies that control our homes and lives in many other ways) but the massive deficit of skilled workforce to feed our demands in this area, it would seem, is significant.

Schools need to embed coding (no pun intended) and other basic Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into regular, routine educational provision from an early age. And I don’t mean simply providing ‘a lesson a week’ to the cause. All subject teachers need to include this in their work irrespective of subject discipline.

There’s no blame culture here, just a realisation that Schools, Governments, Teacher Training Agencies and Curriculum Providers must work together to help in preparing our youngsters accordingly.  

I was lucky enough to be part of a team of pioneering teachers that kick-started a brand new International School in Toulouse, France back in 1998. Every child aged 4-18 had a laptop. There were no dedicated ‘ICT’ rooms or labs. All classrooms were equipped to handle class sets of laptops with appropriate printing and projection capability and, more importantly, all teachers (irrespective of subject) were trained on how to use the technology everyday.  More importantly, teachers and pupils were given insight into how basic code could be used in their work for customisation.  The move towards a ‘hypertext’ curriculum was the ideal. Within a couple of years many KS3 (pupils aged 12/13) had websites that were virtual portfolios of their work that were constantly evolving and organic. And they updated them as part of their curriculum.

Three things helped us make this work:

  • Firstly, all teachers and support staff were involved, and trained, to deliver computer-based education. This was not the domain of a single ‘ICT’ guy or girl. Everyone contributed to the cause and this was seen as an integral part of their skill set delivery regardless of subject discipline.
  • Secondly, all supported the philosophy from the Head and senior management, governors, sponsors, teachers and parents through to the pupils. There was a common desire to succeed. This was important.
  • Thirdly, you had to be open-minded and divergent in your approach as a school; as a teacher. There are risks (there always are) but the benefits far outweighed them. Safety was key (providing initial training to parents and pupils prior to having the laptops so they were aware of the possible pitfalls associated with technology use – security protection, ergonomic issues, the laws relating to ICT use and so forth).

It is interesting to note that in the UK, the so-called ‘3 ‘R’s’ phrase (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) was coined in around 1825 by Sir William Curtis MP in a toast given during Parliament. It referred to the foundations of a basic skills centred education within schools.

It is clear to see that in 2013, almost two hundred years later, that these ’3 R’s’ alone are, quite simply, no longer enough.

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