Education

Education Vision

The Education Department’s Vision was debated in the July 2013 States meeting. I spoke broadly about it and expressed my concerns regarding the possibility of school clsoures, that weren’t mentioned in the report.

Sir, When I read the Vision earlier this year I was struck by how clear the aims of the Department were and the optimism that shone through in the report. For that they should be praised and I certainly don’t want to curb that enthusiasm and sense of purpose.

 

I was pleased to see several ideas which mirror my own views, in relation to pre-school education, local empowerment of schools and new Education legislation. I also welcome a review of the selective system and hope that any report that goes to the States on this matter sets out clear, viable, alternatives.

 

I passed my comments about the Vision to the Department during its consultation period and I don’t intend repeating them here except in respect of the area of IT in general  and Digital Literacy in particular.

 

The paper makes much of the need to find new ways of learning, with particular emphasis on IT options. I totally agree with this approach. However, I think care is required to ensure that the online options are suitable and properly assessed. With the increased use of IT, it will also be necessary for teachers to have the appropriate skills to embrace the new ways of learning.

 

As a Member of the Commerce and Employment Board, and someone who sits on the ICT Strategy Group and Skills Guernsey Policy Group, I am fully supportive of developing Digital Literacy in Guernsey. However, I think care is needed in how ICT is taught and promoted in schools, particularly when considering higher level skills such as coding and development. This has often been treated as something of a male domain, with girls often feeling it’s not for them.

 

Well I was lucky enough that I got hooked when my parents bought me a zx spectrum for my 16th birthday.  For those who haven’t a clue what Im talking about  this is now a classic piece of computer hardware desined by the much maligned Clive Sincliar that brought comuting to the masses. It had 16k memory (the equivalent of a few emails without attachments now) which I had upgraded to a 48k. A classic piece of equipment I kept until very recently and which I manage to sell for more than it originally cost – well I am an accountant after all.

 

From that understated box with rubbery buttons, x black and white tv and cassette player I learnt to program in good old Basic and realised early on how the computers could change our lives. But I did that in my own time. Not at school. At school they got in the BBC computers and it was the boys that were hovering over them seeing how they could play silly games on them. None of the girls, not even me.

 

Now that was a good few years ago now I have to admit. But, I don’t think what I have to say is less valid. Indeed, I believe what I have to say is more pertinent now than when I was at school.

 

A report produced by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform called the ‘Women in IT Scorecard’ comments that ;

 

Only 15% of applicants choosing computer science or IT at degree level.

Men outnumber women in the IT industry by nearly 4 to 1 with women more heavily represented in occupations such as database assistants and IT user support.

 

And the gender imbalance is getting worse.

 

The report points out that gender divide stems in part from the ICT education system with negative experiences of GCSE ICT affecting future subject choices. But it’s not that women aren’t any good at it, no, they actually score higher grades.

 

 

IT skills are more important now than ever before. We live in a digital age, whether some of us like it or not. The importance of ICT to the Guernsey’s economic future, both directly and through enabling the growth of the wider economy such as financial services and the creative industries.

 

 

I want to see more women  being encouraged to get involved in this world and make IT something everyone will embrace. If more women are encouraged to get involved I believe new ways of using IT will develop, there will be less groupthink and a new perspective added, it will mean more members of society will see it as something for them – the old, the disabled and the odd states member.

 

 

It’s for that reason I urge the Education Dept to think hard about their IT provision  and encourage our girls to see that they can take IT to the next level, a new dimension. It’s an opportunity that could really place Guernsey on the map.  I’d like to say that I am happy to help the Department make that happen.

 

Finally, and whilst I fully understand and welcome this Vision, which has been long overdue, we know that the general public, and parents in particular in this case,  will only really be engaged when they find out  how it impacts them. As the Minister is all too aware, there is concern, which has already been voiced by a Douzaine which he represents as a Deputy, about the talk of school closures. I would therefore request that the Department make it clear sooner rather than later what they see their Tomorrow’s World meaning in terms of future primary school provision as soon as they possibly can.



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Email: heidi@heidisoulsby.com