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Microsoft Wants Computer Science Taught In UK Primary Schools 168

Qedward writes "As the UK prepares to shake up the way computer science is taught in schools, Redmond is warning that the UK risks falling behind other countries in the race to develop and nurture computing talent, if 'we don't ensure that all children learn about computer science in primary schools.' With 100,000 unfilled IT jobs but only 30,500 computer science graduates in the UK last year, MS believes: 'By formally introducing children to computer science basics at primary school, we stand a far greater chance of increasing the numbers taking the subject through to degree level and ultimately the world of work.'"
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Microsoft Wants Computer Science Taught In UK Primary Schools

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  • by Kittenman ( 971447 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @05:52PM (#42743021)
    More at 11.
    • by gazbo ( 517111 )
      True. These infernal "computer" things would be going nowhere if it weren't for the clever marketing.
      • Of course, by "computing science basics", they mean "train them to only know how to use MS Word and Excel"

        • Of course, by "computing science basics", they mean "train them to only know how to use MS Word and Excel"

          I did IT all the way to A-level a decade ago - nothing changes...

    • by danomac ( 1032160 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:23PM (#42743501)

      I kind of like the numbers: 100,000 unfilled jobs. Back when I was looking for work many moons ago there were a lot of IT jobs that wanted you to work like a slave for peanuts. No wonder they don't get filled.

    • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:47PM (#42744423)

      How cynical! I'm sure Microsoft is genuine. They probably want to donate a large number of Raspberry Pis to the schools.

    • more like they want their first experiance with computer programing to be MS, and MS only propaganda before they get into open source.
    • by flyneye ( 84093 )

      In the news today, Microsoft tests acquisition by shitting in one hand and wanting in the other and noting which hand fills first. Now to our location cam for a look...

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @05:56PM (#42743083)

    not all IT work is CS and not all of it needs to be at the degree level.

    • You're missing the point -- many technology skills underlie MANY professions.

      An entry-level coordinator needs to know how to interface with Salesforce, and to build new Salesforce objects. This requires a basic understanding of data, and how it's stored. Other entry-level positions require understanding of charts and graphs, or about how to search for information effectively (example: a legal assistant). In an increasingly digitized world, many of these skills underlie most professions.


      • yes some base line is needed but not loads of theory to point of not knowing about other skills.

        Also do you really need to a theory based file system class to work on desktop class. And no it's not a NTFS class or a class about networking / file permissions in area of setting them up.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        So Salesforce is the only platform out there? You're in HR aren't you? It's ok to admit it - that is the first step to healing.

        The task you describe has nothing to do with understanding data or how it is stored. That's kind of the whole point of a good CRM user interface. All that interacting with Salesforce requires at entry level is being able to follow directions and the checklist your manager gives you.

      • An entry-level coordinator needs to know how to interface with Salesforce, and to build new Salesforce objects. This requires a basic understanding of data, and how it's stored.

        Either you have no real world experience or you've been very lucky in your career. I've met hundreds of people who can more or less about get by just doing things monkey style.

        If you haven't seen them, just change something incredibly trivial - they'll be the ones griping that "we can't do anything, nothing works any more" or r

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:07PM (#42743269)

      True, but like it's a waste of time to teach science before the kids have learned mathematics, it's also the optimal order in IT to teach the theory first.

      • by cowdung ( 702933 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:58PM (#42743909)

        Maybe CS is a better way to teach mathematics. I never had any use for math till someone asked me how I could solve certain problems using a computer. Suddenly math became interesting.

        I think one of the big problems with Math is that kids (and most people) don't know where they are going with all these abstract constructs, whereas programming gives you an immediate use for abstractions.

        Also, kids struggle learning basic algorithms like long division but knowing about algorithms and being able to express them with some "language" then maybe they'll have an easier time learning them. Note for example that long division or square roots (or nth roots) are basically modified simple search algorithms.

        Most of what students "memorize" in math is odd algorithms but they fail to understand their purpose or source.. CS can do a lot to make things clearer.

        • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

          I had the same experience, but my point was that CS is mathematics, thus should come before more specific IT fields.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            CS at the level of Knuth is Computer Science. If everybody started with Volume 1 and were slowly introduced to coding via MIX, then it would be Computer Science.

            Ain''t gonna happen. Microsoft wants more Keyboarding classes, and sharp young minds who can run through a list of bullet points and agree amiably.

        • Programming greatly helped me go through many school subjects – Of course, including math and physics, but even to much better understand the importance of grammar.

          Being able to program the procedures the teacher gave us, and play with the variables, graph the results and so on helped me understand a lot.

      • True, but like it's a waste of time to teach science before the kids have learned mathematics

        Not true, because they can learn them together. For instance, I have taught a group of 3rd graders (8 years old) to program with Turtle Logo, and taught them about angles, distances, and rotations simultaneously. They use a GUI to put together their programs, including simple loops and conditionals. The output is a cool drawing on their tablets. The kids love it, and they see how learning the math is actually useful. The math is something that comes alive on their screen, rather than something sterile

      • True, but like it's a waste of time to teach science before the kids have learned mathematics, it's also the optimal order in IT to teach the theory first.

        First of all, maths is a good tool for science, but only a minor part of science depends on it, and only a small part of maths is directly useful for the hard sciences; the field of mathematics is many orders of magnitude larger than the few disciplines employes inphysics, statistics etc. Furthermore, science is a way of thinking and working - "The Scientific Method" - and it is perfectly possible to do without any maths at all. You observe, you make a guess at an explanation, you refine your explanation by

  • MS believes: 'By formally introducing children to Windows basics at primary school, we stand a far greater chance of increasing the numbers using it through the rest of their lifes'

    Joking.. My first computer was a Philips VG8010 (MSX Basic) and I'm perfectly sane! Now excuse me I need to order all my pencils by length and then do my daily naked run in the streets.

  • by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:01PM (#42743173)
    Logic and information theory. If, and, or, xor, union, intersection, and other set theory are some topics at the very heart of computer science that could easily be boiled down to M&M demonstrations for kindergarteners. I see no reason why a basis for logic and argument should not be planted at a young age.
    • by ZeroPly ( 881915 )
      Foisting Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory onto kindergarteners is the best way to ensure they waste their careers in law or politics.

      They don't need rigor. The biggest loss in teaching computer science at young ages is the waning of BASIC. When I was young we messed around with a Sinclair Spectrum and no one gave us grief about how GOTO statements were from the devil. Hopefully the Raspberry Pi and Arduino crowds can bring back that vibe. I'd rather see a 10 year old who can write 200 lines of sloppy code to tra
    • Imagine if most people actually understood maths, used logic and thought things through propertly: they would stop buying stuff they don't need with money they don't have and that would destroy Consumer Society.

      Even more dangerous, they might become skeptics and actually question what they hear on TV, what politicians tell them or more in general, what are the motivations that figures in positions of authority have to say and do what they say and do.

      We can't have that!

    • No all those are mathematics i recall doing the basics of set theory and non base 10 numbers in Junior school
  • Readers,

    Before you go knocking Microsoft (ahem: first post), realize that this is really important. Education standards here in the United States are just now being revised (see: the Common Core []. Math and English Language Arts, and soon, Science, will be released. Most states have, or will, adopt these measures.

    However, by looking through the coming standards, it's clear that while abilities such as critical thinking are addressed, skills and conceptual understanding of the many computational methods that

  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:02PM (#42743181)

    Don't want a repeat of confusing Win8 interface. :-)

    • by Threni ( 635302 )

      Heh - I came to post that if they get started at primary school there'll be some chance they'll know how to use Windows 8 by the time they're 18! "No, to shut down the PC you hit the windows key, move the mouse to the right hand edge of the screen then wave it around a little, then click that that one..not that one..yeah, then click there.."

  • Computer science? Or beginning MCSE?

  • by YurB ( 2583187 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:04PM (#42743225)
    Microsoft said "a number of primary schools" already teach computer science using simple programmes like Microsoft’s Kodu, a visual programming language made specifically for creating games, although there is currently no formal programme of training for teachers, admitted Microsoft.

    No comment.

    • Primary school pupils are age 7-11, and IT is not a core subject on the National Curriculum. How do you suggest teaching Computer Science to a 7 year old in limited time, if not by using a simplified programming language to make simple programmes (like games)? Start with decimal/hexadecimal conversion and work your way up?

      Admittedly I would have said "Scratch" rather than the obscure MS clone, but it seems like a valid starting place to me. Better than teaching them how to format text in Word, or teaching t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Rubbish. UK companies are falling over themselves to outsource all IT to the cheapest possible bidder, which excludes anyone living in the UK. I advise anyone interested in Computer Science to look elsewhere - aside from the fact that almost no one wants to invest in anything other than property or financial fiddling, no one will want to pay you enough to make the investment worthwhile.

  • by hamjudo ( 64140 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:05PM (#42743239) Homepage Journal
    Maybe Google scared Microsoft with the donation of 15,707 Raspberry Pi systems.

    Everyone knows the goal is to get users hooked as young as possible. Schools have small budgets, Adding more Raspberry Pi seats is way cheaper than adding more seats with Microsoft Windows. Microsoft may have a hard time.

    • The time is coming when users can legally download Windows for free. The $35 Raspberry Pi is already as fast or faster than most computers when Windows XP was released. Microsoft's remaining chance at survival is to give away the crown jewels, while maintaining a tight, most likely non-opensource grip on it. That way it can use the OS to win users to its online services rather than lose them to Apple's or Google's iOS or Android-powered gateway devices.

      As far as general-purpose operating systems are concern

  • could fill a $5000/yr position requiring 20 years of CouchDB experience and expert fluency in thirty different programming languages.

  • The UK clearly needs more Indians or .

  • by OhANameWhatName ( 2688401 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:12PM (#42743345)
    Microsoft has lost mindshare with teenagers who are all turning to Apple products, so they're going to try to indoctrinate students at an earlier age.

    That's all this is about. MS thinks that programming childrens minds at a young age to 'Windows' that they'll be able to keep the sinking ship afloat. What they're missing is a workable operating system. It doesn't matter how early you program someone with something terrible, it's still terrible.

    It works for Apple because the products provide more utility than they take from you. Apple products are liberating, Microsoft products are painstaking. Address that first, worry about selling the products when there's something worth selling.
    • If you think MS is in any danger, you haven't seen the backlog of expensive (thousands of $$$ is volume licensing), unmaintainable (no source code or documentation) and mission critical (only way to run a piece of equipment / interface with a system) applications that require a version of Windows to run. That alone will keep them going into the foreseeable future.
      • However, if you're are locked in to that extent, you are likely also locked into a specific version of Windows, say XP or NT4, just as some commercial systems are still locked into IE 6. And that is not a way for Microsoft to get new sales, those sites are as locked out of Win8 as they are Apple or Linux.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Being locked into a walled garden is liberating?

      I say this as a person with a macbook air, not running OSX though. Apple has marketing, MS has ballmer and few people care about liberation or freedom.

      • Being locked into a walled garden is liberating? I say this as a person with a macbook air, not running OSX though.

        Hahaha, congratulations on your purchase. I hope that your macbook air serves you well into the future xD

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

        The walled garden only applies to iOS... OSX although it now provides the convenience of an app store (just as most linux distros provide a repository), you are not forced to use it. OSX is still far more open than windows in many many ways.

    • My school was all Apple. It had the exact opposite effect of persuading me to use Apple computers in my daily life. The last thing I wanted as a kid was the buggy, slow systems at school.

    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      OS X at 7.06% has barely bested the market share maintained by MS Vista 5.67%, and is but a fraction of the ten year-old OS Windows XP at 39.08%.

      Microsoft is not hurting.

      • Microsoft is not hurting.

        Apple desktop market share: ~7%
        Apple market value: 429 billion

        Microsoft desktop market share: ~90%
        Microsoft market value: 233 billion

        You're right, hurting isn't the right word. Probably the right way to look at it is 'not succeeding as well as possible'. I think Ballmer would agree.

      • You've just listed over 51% of the market that failed to buy Windows 7 and won't upgrade to Windows 8. People using XP failed to give Microsoft money for several years. And when you consider how much of the home PC market is really just consumption, those people will also stop buying new laptops and PCs and will be okay with their Apple/Android Tablets (in the same way that people stopped needing landlines when cellphones became ubiquitous. And even people with remaining landlines in their home probably hav

    • by maugle ( 1369813 )

      It works for Apple because the products provide more utility than they take from you. Apple products are liberating, Microsoft products are painstaking.

      You may be a bit off with your assessment, because I remember what using those iMacs were like in school, back before OSX. Do you remember how slow it was to boot up? The way CDs could get jammed in the drive? The inevitable crashes when trying to run Photoshop or Pagemaker, which not only lost all your work but also typically brought the entire system down with it? The hand-crampingly awful puck mouse? I do, and it made me avoid Macs like the plague a whole decade.

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

        If you're talking pre-OSX mac, then you have to compare it to what else was around at the time...
        Windows 3.x and 9x were also extremely well known for being slow and crashing constantly, AmigaOS was massively faster but still very prone to crashing.

        If you wanted a decent reliable system you had to fork out for a highend unix box, which would be reliable and fast but too expensive for most people.

    • by gwolf ( 26339 )


      Apple products are liberating, Microsoft products are painstaking.

      Last time I read this definition of liberation, it was regarding freedom fighters toppling non-US-friendly governments or some such nonsense. Apple is as liberating as handcuffs.

      • Apple is as liberating as handcuffs

        Hahahahaha. This isn't software libre that geeks cling onto, it's something real. For the average person, a device that too hard to use, runs out of battery life or breaks all of the time is disempowering, not empowering.

        Having a functional, usable smartphone in your pocket gives you more freedom and empowerment than having a dumb telephone. That's liberation. Yes, it's loaded with Apple's software and it's manufactured by Apple .. but when Joe Sixpack can load and use 500,000 different applications(!),

        • by gwolf ( 26339 )

          Yes, I agree with you. Still, having a device where the service provider reserves the right to b0rk my navigation when they realize they are not getting whatever from GoogleMaps, or when some apps I saw and wanted to use are pulled out just because they fail an arbitrary restriction... It is far from liberating.

          Oh, and BTW, 500,000 applications sounds great. But when you realize that the value of at least half of them is having a fart sound on your phone when you push a "stink!" button... Well, the value is

  • 100,000 unfilled IT jobs

    Hey /. UK people is that true or false? In the US our unfilled job position news reports are lies, all lies. If there really are 0.1M job openings in the UK I'd think I'd have heard about it.

    • maybe, but they tend to get filled continually as people move from job to job. So how many "unsatisfied" job openings are there left over? No-one wants to ask that question as its too difficult to answer, not compared to a quick count of the job ads open at any given time.

  • by sackofdonuts ( 2717491 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:22PM (#42743497)
    When he was trying to get schools in the U.S. to train more children to be able to work in a world with IT. But all Bill was really trying to do was get schools scared about falling behind in their technology knowledge and then have Microsoft save the day by selling school districts a whole bunch of Windows software. At an educational discount of course. Bill Gates is not your friend and doesn't care about anyone's kids IT knowledge.
  • 100,000 unfilled IT jobs but only 30,500 computer science graduates

    Am I to believe the UK has 69,500 unfilled IT positions right now? If that were true, why wouldn't they start importing all the hundreds of thousands of unemployed IT folks in the US?

    Am I to also believe that they graduate over 30,000 computer science students each year?

    I call BS.

    • by gb ( 8474 )

      100,000 unfilled IT jobs but only 30,500 computer science graduates

      Am I to believe the UK has 69,500 unfilled IT positions right now? If that were true, why wouldn't they start importing all the hundreds of thousands of unemployed IT folks in the US?

      Am I to also believe that they graduate over 30,000 computer science students each year?

      I suspect that's 30500 people who have done a CS degree ever, not just the ones who graduated last year. CS is a small and relatively low status degree in the UK compared to the US, Canada, Germany... Most of the folk working in IT will have non-CS degrees, primarily science, technology, engineering and maths degrees. But the UK doesn't actually graduate enough of them either to fill the demand for science and tech jons one would expect to have when the economy wasn't being trashed. Importing workers is a

  • So a future crop of IT professionals will be well versed on Microsoft products instead of open source, standardized technologies. I hate it when corporations try and play educators.
  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:50PM (#42743827) Homepage
    Sounds find to me, as long they teach real CS, and don't just teach Word and Excel and Powerpoint. It constantly frustrated me that my little sister's computer classes where never anything more than "Make a presentation in Powerpoint". Microsoft should work to put an end to that being the end-all of computer education. That should only be a small part.
    • If as Microsoft says, companies are having trouble finding people to do actual IT jobs (which pay better than teaching), how exactly are they're going to find people to teach programming to kids!?

      (More so in the UK where they're cutting state funding on everything except bank bailouts and there is an expectation that every adult is a pedophile so people have to undergo highly-intrusive background checks for something as simple as doing a presentation to some school children - as some children books authors

  • Given how many computing devices that exist around us all day long, and how many we're likely to interact with (speaking globally here), I see no reason why everyone by the time they graduate high school shouldn't be required to at least write simple programs. It's unreasonable to expect that computing won't be with us for the future and likely playing a much more pertinent role than it does now.
  • wasn't there a guy who said that he only hired english language students because computer science students couldn't communicate or do basic logical reasoning effectively? when working in teams, the ability to reason and communicate is far more important. so this guy, i can't remember who he was (anyone find a link?) said that he found it much more effective to hire people with good english language skills and to train them to program, than to try to hire people who could program and to try to get them to

  • > Microsoft Wants Computer Science Taught In UK Primary Schools

    Good idea. We need to introduce our kids to the new generation of Android devices
  • And ARM architecture. And Alan Turing. They are falling behind in CS? Really?

    Microsoft is probably panicking that 30,000 new CS graduates won't be enough MCSEs to keep the UK's Windows systems running.

  • I have long been an advocate of teaching computing at school — hell, I'm sure I'm not the only one in this forum that started off with programming over 25 years ago, in what seemed a trivial thing back then but definitively changed my life!

    But the main reason to teach computing is IMO *not* to create more, better programmers, graduated earlier. It should be a core subject of study, just as algebra, philosophy, natural sciences or language.

    Programming teaches kids a different way to think, to look at a

  • Computer science is not suitable to be taught at primary school level. I'm not even sure it's suitable to be taught at the middle school level.
    Those Microsoft people are probably talking about something that's not Computer Science at all, like using a computer.

    Computer Science does not require the use of a computer at all.

  • Teaching some sort of computer literacy at an early age, however crass a marketing strategy, is probably preferable to the recent push to have economics taught to primary school students [] in Australia. I cannot imagine a worse strategy than to indoctrinate children with the economic fallacies of endless resources and growth.

    • Having all kids knowing how to calculate how much interest a loan amounts to or the basics of investment is a very good thing - Maybe MR Buffet could donate a copy of his mentors book "The intelligent Investor" to all high school kids)
  • They want kids to learn that things happen but they won't be ever able to know how or why. That if something works, is a miracle. That the seven plages included bugs, virus, worms, and even trojan horses. That when computers die they go directly to the blue heaven. If they install unauthorized software, they could venture into the dll Hell. And that they should donate to the church and pray to Bill Almighty, that lives in the sky or at least in a skycraper high enough.

    Computer Science in the other hand, i

  • by knuty ( 136597 ) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @04:36AM (#42748285) Homepage

    The Brittish education minister Michael Gove called the current ICT curriculum "demotivating and dull" a year ago, BBC reports. "Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years, once we remove the roadblock of the existing ICT curriculum. Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word or Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations, Gove said at the BETT conference for ICT in schools.

    An extensive report on the failure of teaching boring office administration in schools, was made by Royal Society in 2011, inspiring the UK educational minister to change the whole curriculum. Basically blaming key Microsoft products for the whole mess. Then Microsoft nows tries to salvage the situation.

  • Those "100,000 unfilled IT jobs" almost certainly do not require people with a Computer Science degree; they mostly likely require people with more general IT skills. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a lot of them are for third line support roles, which pay peanuts - probably not even enough to start paying off the student loans for the expensive degree they're almost certainly asking for as a qualification requirement.

  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Thursday January 31, 2013 @05:21AM (#42748561) Homepage

    MS is in a large part responsible for the laughable way in which "computing" is taught in schools...
    Not only have they pushed very hard for schools to simply teach how to use MS products rather than about computing in general, but they are also directly responsible for scaring millions of people off from learning about how their machines work...

    When you bought early home computers like a C64 you were actually encouraged to learn about it, and if you crashed it the absolute worst case was hitting reset because the core system was held in ROM and couldn't be damaged by the user.
    MS on the other hand have always pushed an extremely fragile system which is very easy to damage, and then covered it with all manner of scary warnings "this directory contains system files, don't look here!" etc.

    The first perceptions at a young age have a significant affect on later life... If your first exposure to computing is a system you are free to experiment with, knowing nothing bad will happen to you then a childs natural curiosity will drive them to learn about it. On the other hand if you are faced by a fragile system covered in scary warnings, and even worse someone (eg parents, teachers) who will become angry if you break it then you become afraid and won't experiment, won't learn or think for yourself and will very rigidly follow instructions for fear of what might happen if you don't.

    If you want to teach kids about computing, give them systems they can't break (or at the very least a trivial way to restore them to how they were) and let them explore. Teachers should be there to guide them and point things out, but not to dictate a specific path the kids must take.
    Something that would work well is games which include sourcecode (eg the old BASIC games on C64 and similar), let them play for a while and then show them how the change the rules...

  • For years, Microsoft has been more than happy sitting back and raking in the cash from Windows and Office licenses because the only IT skills kids learnt in our UK schools was how to use Office, Word and Powerpoint.

    Now initiatives like the Raspberry Pi have started to show that kids can learn programming quickly and cheaply on Open Source and open standards-based programming tools, all of a sudden Microsoft takes an interest.

    One can only assume it's to get the kids hooked into Visual Studio licensing before

  • If by "computer science" MS means problem solving, algorithm development, information theory, how the different bits of hardware work etc, my response has to be: "With all possible respect, you are meddling in a specialised area in which you do not have adequate credentials. You have expressed a layman's opinion which is, unfortunately, of limited pedagogical* value in a primary school."

    If by "computer science" MS means getting children to start using MS products at an ever earlier age my response has to be

  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
    1981 - Year 7 - binary and hexidecimal number systems, very simple boolean logic and logo programming. Of course most was done on paper but all students had a chance to run a logo program on the computer some time during the semester. A few years later I was doing something not really any more complicated than those primary school logo programs with G-codes on a milling machine.

Variables don't; constants aren't.