Two cheers for Gove?

English: Michael Gove speaking at the Conserva...
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Michael Gove is to make a speech today in which he is going to lambast the existing ICT curriculum in English schools and promise a revolutionary new start.

Sounds like a good thing, and certainly he appears to have identified the cretinous nature of the current curriculum and its chaining to Microsoft’s proprietary software. So far, so good.

But is he going to replace it with anything better? The gushing nature of much of the speech is worrying as it suggests someone just reading out a script rather than any deeper level of engagement: “we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch. By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in university courses and be writing their own apps for smartphones.”

But I think we should be generous to him – only a few weeks ago he appeared to reveal his true lack of interest and enthusiasm for science and mathematics when he defined higher learning almost exclusively in terms of the arts and humanities: he has a lot of catching up to do in a field he plainly knows little or nothing about (as his odd comments about Alan Turing in the speech suggest – would love it if someone asked him why he appears to rate Turing’s contribution as more fundamental than that of Alonzo Church).

What worries me is this bit: “By withdrawing the programme of study, we’re giving schools and teachers freedom over what and how to teach; revolutionising ICT as we know it.”

For me that just signals that many pupils are going to be taught nothing (no change from the position recently revealed by OFSTED) but that the government will have shifted the blame on to the schools.

Where are the teachers of formal logic going to come from? Who is going to teach kids Java, C# or Objective-C to make these smart phone apps? Schools already struggle to find maths and science teachers and nothing this government is doing, beyond overseeing a general increase in graduate unemployment, is likely to encourage graduates in these fields to look to teaching as a career. Teachers’ pay is being frozen and their pension rights eroded after all.

Well, maybe I am being a bit too hasty: Gove loves nothing better than a good headline and so the rhetoric about letting everybody do their own thing may be just that – rhetoric. But if I am right, and this is just the government admitting there is a problem but walking away from trying to solve it then it will only make things worse.

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