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International Comparison of Computing in Schools

Linda Sturman, Juliet Sizmur
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The outcomes from this small-scale international comparison highlight variability in ICT and Computing education internationally, as well as identifying some areas of common ground. They are not intended to represent an exhaustive survey, but to be useful indicators. They are potentially useful in informing discussions about how to motivate students to pursue their ICT and Computing education. They may also be useful in considering what works or might usefully be developed in our own curricula in the UK. The key findings are as follows:
  • A wide range of labels is used internationally to describe the subject areas of ICT and Computing, ranging from Information Technology or Technology Literacy to Informatics and Computer Sciences, Computer Studies or Computer Engineering Technology.
  • In the sampled countries‟/regions‟ curriculum documents, the subject labels Information and Communication Technology and Digital Literacy are not used.
  • In some educational systems, the subject is not represented in the curriculum.
  • In some it is optional and in others mandatory.
  • Approaches to the subject vary. Use of ICT as a tool is generally integrated and cross-curricular at the elementary stage of schooling, even in countries where it is not included in the curriculum.
  • At upper primary and secondary level, the subject areas are usually taught as discrete elements.
  • The use of ICT is included in the curriculum more commonly than the technical aspects of Computing, such as programming.
  • The age at which the teaching of ICT is expected by the curriculum varies, from introduction at or before age 6 in Ontario and Massachusetts to first introduction at the age of 12 in Singapore and 14 in Italy. There is evidence, however, that many students use ICT earlier than the curriculum implies.
  • Younger students are generally expected to use ICT for activities such as producing and presenting text, making presentations and carrying out internet searches. Computers are also used across the curriculum, in subjects as varied as the arts, physical education and mathematics.
  • Safe and secure use of ICT tends to be included in the curriculum. Massachusetts, unusually, sets out an expectation for keyboarding skills.
  • The introduction of more technical Computing skills occurs later, typically from the ages of 12-14 upwards.
  • In terms of basic technical Computing skills, students are generally expected to know common terminology, to understand concepts such as „hardware‟ and „software‟ and to be able to name parts of a computer system, among other elements.
  • Programming is covered in most Computing curricula investigated. In some, specific languages are identified, while in others, there is flexibility (e.g. Ontario simply specifies that programming languages should be „industry standard‟).
  • Only the older students are exposed to the technicalities of networking and systems management, and then not in all countries/regions.
  • Curriculum design varies. Most courses are linear, while Ontario offers a menu of Computing courses at the higher levels, from which students can select courses tailored to their different interests and aspirations.
Von Linda Sturman, Juliet Sizmur im Text International Comparison of Computing in Schools (2011)

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