Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Three Rs to Become Three Rs Plus Google in U.K. Schools

Taking an apple to class for teacher could soon take on a whole new meaning. There's a plan underway to overhaul the curriculum in U.K. primary schools—nothing special there, since there's always some attempt underway to improve teaching quality. But this scheme is amazing because it's going to put computing skills on the same level as reading, writing and arithmetic.

The plan suggests that learning to read will be facilitated with the aid of search engines like Google, and that Google Earth will be recommended for use in geography lessons. Writing skills will be honed both with a pen and a keyboard, and pupils will be taught the use of spellcheckers, how to insert hyperlinks, use spreadsheets to help understand math, exploit online archives as repositories of knowledge for history lessons, and use video conferencing software to practice language skills with kids in foreign countries.

This overhaul is the most significant revision the National Curriculum has seen since its inception in 1988. It's undeniably future-facing, and a sensible step in an increasingly digital world: Merely having "computing" lessons alongside other subjects is becoming irrelevant as information technology pervades everything. And when kids leave school, their new IT skill sets will be instantly relevant in almost any workplace.

But the scheme does seem to put a lot of power in Google's hands. And let's hope that kids are taught original thinking, instead of how to regurgitate online facts, and that the use of spell checkers is taught as an aide to spelling words properly, not a substitute for knowledge. Fears that the education establishments will put an incorrect slant on things could be well-founded, given that not every teacher is a computer expert. At least the chap in charge of the shake-up, Sir Jim Rose, is on record as saying there's a need to educate staff with IT skills to keep them ahead of "computer savvy pupils" and that the new skills won't come at the expense of sidestepping "the basics," which should placate traditionalists somewhat.

The whole intention is to simplify the curriculum and prevent the creation of a "digital underclass." And that's very laudable, but the schoolboy in me imagines that there's soon going to be a whole new world of IT-based pranks and computer hacking opening up under the noses of unwary educators across Britain.

[via The Telegraph]

Related: The Coolest Schools in the World
Related: Get With the Program: Smart Strategies for Online Teaching