Simon Jenkins on computer science

In a polemic in The Guardian today, Simon Jenkins argues for a(nother) shake up of the UK’s education system, with less focus on STEM and computer science in particular.

This kind of misinformed ranting on the utilitarian view of STEM and why the UK should focus on being a service industry appears to be his CiF modus operandi — see a similar post from February on mathematics education. In particular, he displays a profound misunderstanding of the difference between digital skills/competencies and the rigorous academic discipline of computer science, as well as a lack of awareness of the profound changes to computing education in England from September for all pupils from age five onwards. He also doesn’t appear to be aware of the increasing demands from pretty much every industrial sector for high-value digital skills (both user and creator skills); see the recently published interim report from the UK Digital Skills Taskforce: Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World. As for the perceived high unemployment rates for computer science graduates? Well, this isn’t the full picture and is also discussed in detail in the Taskforce report.

While it is tempting to deconstruct and refute his article line by line, I will just link to an excellent response from Chris Mairs, Chief Scientists at Metaswitch Networks and Chair of the UK Forum for Computing Education.

2 thoughts

  1. If some journalists were a bit more professional and took the trouble to find out the facts and evidence before rushing out to try an make a few bob from ill-informed rants the world would indeed be a better place. Most people that say something is not needed do so because they were crap at it themselves. The things they put the greatest store by are the things they were good at. Obvious really because they like to think they are important 😉

  2. From Christine Swan (@chris_swan) on LinkedIn:

    He is totally misinformed and has probably is working from a few items of data and overheard comments. Undergraduate study prepares the mind but does not produce graduates with all of the necessary skills for a specific employer (unless the course is a Foundation Degree to which they contributed). I dislike and object to the stereotyping of CS graduates as “inarticulate and unemployable”. He trivialises a subject with strong foundations in problem-solving and decisions. I am weary of the media portrayal of Computer Scientists as social oddballs. More seriously, articles such as this, devalue STEM education. This, in my view, is shooting straight for the foot.

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