Education and Programming

Over the weekend I’ve been thinking about the education system in the U.K. for programming.  A quick search of BECTA and the BBC’s ICT help shows that education at pre-16’s is designed for getting the next generation understanding what a computer is and how it can be used.  It is very broad and the only section which gets close to how a computer is programmed is the “Control and Measurement” section.  This is very poor when I compare it to what I was able to learn at school when I was 14 (back in 1984!)

Stepping away from computers into Design & Technology there is a section on Electronic Logic which is a lot more useful for budding programmers.  Looking at science, in the Additional Science (AQA) there is a useful section on Forces and Motion that is great for games programming.

Lastly, I discovered something called DiDA, the Diploma in Digital Applications – equivalent to 4 GCSEs.  Looking at the relationship between DiDA and GCSEs shows that a “Level 1 Distinction” or “Level 2 Pass” is a GCSE grade C, and a “Level 2 Distinction” is equivalent to GCSE grade A*.

In the Unit Content, they talk about “Unit 5 – Games Authoring“.   This is a very recent addition but there is a draft specification and it is being piloted this year (from Sept 2008).   Reading through the draft, I see that it is game designer/producer training that is being offered.  Obviously the pupils will need to draw upon other skills to help them with this course.

Oh, and here is the reading list:

Jason Darby, Make Amazing Games in Minutes (Charles River
Media, 2005) ISBN-10: 1584504072
Jason Darby, Game Creation for Teens (Delmar, 2008) ISBN-10:
Jason Darby, Picture Yourself Creating Video Games (Delmar,
2008) ISBN-10: 1598635514
Jacob Habgood, Mark Overmars, The Game Maker’s Apprentice:
Game Development for Beginners (Apress, 2006) ISBN
Nanu Swamy and Naveena Swamy, Basic Game Design & Creation
for Fun and Learning, Charles River Media, 2006, ISBN
Andrew Rollings, Ernest Adams, On Game Design, New Riders
Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1592730019

It makes me sick.  From Amazon’s description: “Make Amazing Games in Minutes introduces the game creation process to the aspiring game developer with no experience or programming ability.”  I hope none of the readers of this book expect to get a job!

And what about A levels?  Computing news from last year showed where computer programming is heading.

Looking at the subjects section of the National Curriculum Design & Technology only exists for KS3 (under 16s) and ICT for KS4 is not programming.  Basically, if you want to learn how to program after GCSE you need to leave school!  No wonder all the undergraduates in universities rely on the first year to get to know how a computer works.  Then the second and third year actually programming.  This gap needs sorting out!

If I was 16 now, and wanted to do something related to programming computers (say Design, Technology or Engineering even), then I’d be stuck.  I’d be leaving school and trying to find something will help me before I enter University.  The university requirements for computer science are easy to find though.  And this FAQ from Oxford University Computer Science department will help.

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