1. Computer Education: The raison d’etre

Computer Education: The raison d’etre

Children today are exposed to a wide presence of computers (in homes and elsewhere)...

Published: December 16, 2014 3:29 PM
Now it is necessary to take note of what computer usage is prevalent among children of a given age group and introduce those topics into the curriculum itself, in a suitable manner. (Reuters)

Now it is necessary to take note of what computer usage is prevalent among children of a given age group and introduce those topics into the curriculum itself, in a suitable manner. (Reuters)

Children today are exposed to a wide presence of computers (in homes and elsewhere). Their natural curiosity leads them to explore these “interesting toys”. They often learn on their own (or from friends, parents etc.) to use a computer for a variety of purposes. Sometimes this leads to learning undesirable habits (playing on a computer for hours), incorrect usage, as well as unsafe usage (ignorance of the risks in Internet access). Hence it is desirable for schools to introduce learning about computers as part of the curriculum itself.

Now it is necessary to take note of what computer usage is prevalent among children of a given age group and introduce those topics into the curriculum itself, in a suitable manner. Otherwise the school curriculum would lag behind the learning in other settings, leading to boredom, in addition to the dangers of incorrect/ignorant usage. Also, new computer-based tools and technologies are constantly finding their way into popular use. So it is necessary for the curriculum to be dynamic and adapt appropriately to the introduction of new tools, while simultaneously keeping a focus on conceptual learning. Moreover, there should not be emphasis on learning computers at the expense of other subjects/activities and the curriculum should be well-balanced. This document is an attempt at defining the details of what we believe is an appropriate, balanced curriculum for computer science in schools according to students’ level of maturity and demands of the present century.

We emphasize nurturing clarity of thought and learning of concepts associated with various tools, rather than just the usage skills of a specific tool. We also include topics like stepwise thinking and logical reasoning to facilitate and improve thinking skills which are not subject specific.

Indian schools have already been offering computer science as a subject to their students for the last 10 years or so. Some of them introduce it as early as 1st grade and some of them introduce it in 3rd grade. Unlike other subjects where there is a prescribed textbook and syllabus, there is a lot of ambiguity for teaching computer science. One reason could be lack of a well defined top level framework. Currently the NCF defined by NCERT forms the basis for the CBSE board syllabus and the schools tied up with this board do teach the topics mentioned in the framework. However the emphasis on topics is open to interpretation and there is wide variation in the treatment of a given topic across books. The ICSE system has defined syllabus only for 9th and 10th grades and for the lower grades, the school can teach what they feel is appropriate. This leads to variation in the books chosen by individual schools and hence the topics covered at the primary and middle school level.

Essentially the topics covered currently are more driven by the market demand at that point of time and more of usage and skill based content is covered for specific applications [ eg: Java, MS Office]. There is very little emphasis on thinking skills or concepts of broad applications that would be useful across subjects. As the individual schools are given the flexibility of following their own curriculum and textbooks, there is a huge variation in topics that are being covered. Hence there is an urgent need to define a detailed curriculum to teach computer science in schools.

To summarize, in India, a formal curriculum for Computers does not exist for the lower grades. Yet several textbooks have been written for Computers as a school-level subject, and many schools are offering Computers as a subject in the lower grades, leading to a variety of ways in which it is being taught. What should be taught in the lower grades is being left open to interpretation for textbook authors and schools. There is no metric by which a school or a textbook author can check whether the topics being taught and the manner in which they are being taught are suitable. Hence there is a need for detailed specifications for a school-level Computers curriculum in India.

BY Rupesh Shah, CEO and Co Founder Inopen Technologies .

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