This year, England became the first country in the world to mandate teaching computing skills to children at primary and secondary schools. The D5 Digital Nations summit is meeting today in London to discuss how the divide can be bridged between technology in education, public sector and industry.

This divide has grown in recent years, with the proliferation of the Internet across all devices and many day to day activities from shopping to reading of books moving to the new connected technologies, whilst the education system has really only provided training on Word and Excel for the last decade. As a direct effect, many young people have not been prepared for the emerging markets and employers, causing a mismatch between skills and employer demand.
D5 is the Digital alliance between England, Estonia,Israel,New Zealand and South Korea, and is due to expand, including the USA as an observer.

The UK Government has now recognised this skills issue and, lead by Francis Maude and Liam Maxwell, are investing in improving this situation through the D5 alliance. The alliance will strengthen public and private sector links between the member countries in areas such as technology and the digital economy in line with other key nations providing essential new skills for our modern technology-driven economy.

Liam Maxwell Francis Maude image

The curriculum objective is a stride in the right direction, however, the challenges are significant. Despite the passion and desire from teachers to deliver this new content, there is a lack of relevant training and knowledge within the existing education system and support from industry is essential to ensure skills and training is relevant.

When local schools in Rugby realised that they needed support but found none through the formal channels, they engaged with the community and through local connections to various schools, consulted with staff at OpusVL, a Midlands-based Open Source business management software provider who have over 15 years real-world Open Source implementation experience.

As part of its community investment programme, OpusVL were able to provide impartial advice to the schools on both the acquisition of Raspberry Pi hardware and the approach to the programming curriculum activities.

Since this activity, other schools have expressed an interest in their advice and are also seeking organisations in their local region to provide support. The Open Source industry is growing fast and there is an increasing choice of companies entering in to the market who may be able to offer help and support. Some of these can be found through the Open Source Consortium, the UK Open Source industry association.

One of the objectives is to create a framework that will empower the kids to become the trainers and in turn, enable others to educate. The unique Open Source approach encourages sharing of knowledge opposed to the traditional IT culture of secrecy and protectionism.

The pioneering team are generating re-usable content and processes which can be utilised by many schools, and with the "Open" ethos, encouraging others to use, improve and distribute the content. An approach that does not create discrimination, but focusses on ability and supports a more evenly balanced skillset across gender, geographical boarders, and background.

The official Government statement on the D5 programme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/d5-london-summit-themes.

Posted by S J Mackintosh on 09/12/2014