Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the integral subjects in our basic school system in Ghana. The 2007 Educational Reform gave birth to the introduction of ICT into the basic school system. Consequently, it has become examinable in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) organized by the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) since 2011.
The general aims of the 2007 ICT syllabus as stated by the Curriculum Research and Development Division (CRDD) of the Ghana Education Service (GES) are as follows:
- Acquire basic ICT literacy
- Communicate effectively using ICT tools
- Develop interest and acquire skills in the use of the internet
- Develop basic ethics in using ICT tools
- Acquire basic mouse and keyboarding skills
Probably it was good to achieve these aims then, but not now. And these aims are irrelevant in the future.
The problem with these aims are.
- It makes the child a consumer of ICT tools instead of a producer of ICT tools.
- The child will be able to use PowerPoint. But the child will not be able to make PowerPoint in the future.
- The child will be able to install operating system but the child will not be able to develop operating system in the future
- In future the child will be able to use SPSS but the child will not be able to design a powerful tool like spss for others to use.
- The child will know Mavis Beacon and probably type a full page in 5 minutes but in the future the child will not be able to do a software like MS Word.
- The child will be able to go to mybet and bet. But the child will not be able to develop a system like mybet.
- The child will be 2017 Super Mario Game Champion, Dormaa East but the child will not be able to make Oware or Ampe software.
So in short, Ghana will still be left behind, even when all things become digital. Because we will always be consumers of technology. Instead of producers of technology.
The UK Department of Education realized this.
They realized there is a big difference between training a child to be able to use Microsoft office AND training the child to be able develop a software like Microsoft office.
The difference is Computer Science.
To help solve this problem. UK in 2014 changed their curriculum, under the heavy influence of the British Computer Society (BCS), from ICT to “Computing”.
People described the old GCSE in ICT as, little more than an explanation of how to use Microsoft Office
Most of the old course consist of information that children pick up naturally when at school (and will expand on at work). Things such as how to edit a document and how to design a presentation. UK didn’t see why they should waste much time teaching kids these things.
The ability to use certain tools was not completely wiped out though. But the main objective was a shift from ICT to Computer Science. Computer science is the NEXT THING. And more specifically. Data Technology
I remember one trained teacher asked,on facebook
I will want to further in ICT. Which university will be fine. I don’t which university will be fine but
Straight away I told him
If you want put on tie and get all the salute. Then go for ICT but if you really want to understand computer. Then forget ICT and go for Computer science.
When you learn ICT, you interact with people a lot. So you get all the salute. But when you learn Computer Science, you interact with Computers at a lot. No one knows you. But you will know computer.
I hope that person will find this article and read. And hope it helps.
The person belongs to the GNAT Youth Facebook Group
ICT help you use technology tools effectively, but you are not able to produce your own tools.
Below are the aims of the new curriculum introduced in UK
The national curriculum for computing aims to ensure that all pupils:
- Can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation
- Can analyze problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems
- Can evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems
- Are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.
Personally, the shift from ICT to computing (Computer Science) is not that surprising. It’s happening in every “serious” country in the world. But the target group in UK is shocking to some of us who spent two complete semesters learning Microsoft office suite (word, PowerPoint and excel) at the tertiary.
The above listed aims are for pupil in Key Stage 1 and 2!! That is equivalent to Primary school in Ghana. It’s children less than 12 years of age that the UK Government wants to be able to
apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation
America is also moving on the same line….. from ICT to Computer Science.
During the launch of Hour of Code campaign for Computer Science Education Week 2013, President Barack Obama asks every American to give it a shot to learn computer science.
He said: Don’t just buy video games. Make one. Don’t just download the latest app. Help design it.
Italy has the Programma il Futuro project and they adopted learning material from code.org
Finland has it.
Estonia, a small country with a population of 1.3 million introduced it in 2012.
And many countries. But not Africa. Uganda and Kenya are doing great things. But still have a long way to go.
None of these countries are proposing ICT. They are all talking about Computer science (or it’s subset called programming/coding)
In Ghana, anyone who can
- Do installation
- Work with Photoshop
- Type very fast
- Prepare PowerPoint
- Change HDD and Memory
- Install WhatsApp for others
- Unlock or Flash phone
Is considered IT Specialist.
But none of them knows Number base system. There is no way you will understand computer if you don’t understand Number Base System. The ability to convert from one number base to another is very important in computer science. Our teachers teach us but am sure they themselves don’t know why it’s in the math’s book and where it can be applied.
The Photoshop guy doesn’t know anything about geometric figures or coordinates or X-Y plane or the difference between Scalar and Vector measurements. How can you be a real Graphic Engineer when u can’t calculate gradient?
The one doing sound engineering doesn’t know anything about velocity of sound/light or conductors and insulators.
The one learning database don’t know anything about Vein Diagram.
Our IT basically has no future! So sad to say 🙁
Anyway, among the blind, we are told the one-eye-man is the king. So we will continue to “chop our samber”.
Our main focus should be on teaching our children how computers work.
Teachers should be able to link topics like Coordinates, Number base system, Venn Diagram, Vectors, etc to computer.
Mavis beacon, Microsoft office suite, Photoshop, sending email, doing installation, formatting pen drive, installing anti-virus and the effective use of ICT tools should not be thrown away totally. But that should not be the focus at the elementary level. They will never understand computer when they grow up.
To understand how computers work is to understand Logic and Algorithms also.
We that tried computer science and failed (and ended up as IT guys), always wonder.” wow”. How do you teach algorithms in primary school?
To me it’s nothing new. Our teachers already teach some aspect of it but probably don’t even know they are teaching it.
Any question that says “Step by Step…. how is XYZ done?” is talking about algorithm.
Back in 2011 when I was doing national service at Atebubu DHD. On the office wall is a calendar that says “The algorithm for treating Malaria”. I looked at it and smile. Said to myself.
Ghana Health Service is joking with a dangerous word.
What that calendar was basically saying was “How to treat Malaria. Step by Step”. And that is the whole concept of algorithm. The step by step way of doing things in the best and most efficient manner.
When it comes to Step By Step way of doing things, Computer science focus on one key thing. That is, the step by step way you are using should be the shortest and most efficient way of doing that thing. And less costly.
Take for example. The all known English descriptive essay we wrote back in Junior high school or primary
“Describe how your favorite soup is prepared”.
The student with the highest mark is basically the student with the “Best Step By Step” way of preparing that soup. Unless the teacher was bias. In order words, that is the student with the best algorithm for preparing soup.
One key thing in the marking scheme will be the sequence….
What was done first?
What was done second?
What was done third?
What was done last?
We use phrases like
First of all
To start with
If the student starts with say………
Add salt to the soup… then pound the palm nut… you will instantly know something isn’t right.
In computer science terms, that is a bad algorithm
Or assuming you ask students for a direction. From Accra to Wamfie
Student 1: from circle take bus to Dormaa. Alight at Wamfie
Student 2: from circle, take Kumasi car. Then take Dormaa. Alight at Wamfie
Student 3: from circle, take Kumasi car, then take Sunyani car, then take Dormaa car. Alight at wamfie.
Student 4: take Kumasi car, take Sunyani car, take berekum car, take wamfie car.
Student 5: from circle, take cape coast car, take Kumasi car, take bechem car, take duayam nkwanta car, take asuaotia car, take wamfie car.
You will clearly know there is problem with student 5.
The easiest, less costly route is the Algorithm for traveling from Accra to Wamfie.
Another thing relating to computer science that we are not aware of is Logical Reasoning. Our teachers teach it too.
I really hated that type of Maths in those days. Never knew it’s that important
It goes like this
IF Ama is 11 years old and Kofi is twice Ama’s age THEN What is Kofi’s age?
It was years later that I realized. this is very important in programming. The ability to make deductions. And it’s done with simple words like IF, THEN, OR, AND, EQUAL TO, NOT EQUAL TO, LESS THAN, GREATER THAN, etc
Any child who can describe, step by step, HOW palm nut soup is prepared. Or How his favorite game is played. And can also calculate the age of Kofi CAN become a computer scientist in future.
This should be our focus at the elementary level. Training children to be able to solve simple challenges in the most efficient way.
Being able to find the simplest solution to problem sometimes (or mostly) will require you to break the problem into small parts like how the child split the soup preparation into sections – using words like First of all, Secondly, Thirdly, In addition AND finally.
Here comes the hard part!!!
When that “best solution” is found, then the next is to be able to train a computer to understand that best solution. When the computer is able to understand that problem and the solution. Then the computer will be able to solve that same problem when ever people ask it.
Example, when a robot is trained to understand that child’s way of preparing palm nut soup. Next time the robot can do it without supervision. And will do it very fast.
Then Ghana will be producing robots that are good in preparing palm nut soup.
The act of giving that descriptive easy (of how to prepare palm nut soup) to the computer(robot) is what is called programming.
How do you give that instruction to the computer?
Unfortunately, Computers don’t speak the language we humans speak. Scientist are trying so hard so computers will understand normal English or French or Twi or Dagbanli or Hausa. But we are not there yet. And since we are not there yet, and we want them to understand our descriptive essay (how to prepare palm nut soup) THEN we must learn their language. The trick is to use the computers language THEN use that language to communicate with it.
If the mountain does not go to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain
The language computer understands is called Programming Language. There are 100s (if not 1000s) of such languages.
What you will learn depends on what you want to train the computer to do.
- If you want to train a mobile phone so that the phone will in turn teach people how to prepare palm nut soup. There are specific computer languages u will have to learn.
- If you want to train a computer so that the computer can be used as security man in a company. There is a specific language you will have to learn.
- If you want to train a computer so that it can calculate calculus. There is a specific language you will have to learn.
- If you want to train a computer that can calculate when it will rain. And get it right (unlike Ghana whetherman), there is a specific language you will learn.
- If you want to train a computer that will bomb people, it has its own language.
- If you want to train a computer that can predict when people will die. There is specific language you will have to learn.
- If you want to train a computer that will allow people to withdraw money via the ATM machine, there is a specific language you will have to learn.
These are specific languages. There are certain computer languages that when you learn, will be able to instruct computers to do general purpose task. Or every day task.
Example, a computer that can calculate trial balance, a computer that can calculate your SSNIT contribution. A computer that will allow people to register online (like the YEA Arabic Instructor Module) or allow you to check your payslip online.
Some of these general purpose languages are
Needless to say, I once saw a joke. It was someone’s CV. Under the languages he speaks. He wrote :
NOTE: The most important thing is being able to train the children to use their brain to think about the easiest and most efficient way of solving that challenge. Learning the language is what will help the child communicate with the computer.
Getting the solution is the most difficult part. And that has nothing to do with computer. You only go to your computer when you have the solution.
- If you cannot solve quadratic equation the simplest way, there is no way you can train computer to solve it the simplest way for others.
- If you cannot take a paper and pen to calculate when a person will die. There is no way you can train a computer to predict when a person will die. No matter how best you are in speaking the computers language
If Child A solves long division in 15 steps
And Child B solves same question in 3 steps.
When both children train a computer to solve long division, one computer will be faster in solving it than the other.
Your guess is as good as mine. It will definitely be the one who used 3 steps.
So, I repeat, the primary focus of computer science at the primary level should be the ability of the children to solve challenges in the simplest and cost effective way. This skill is needed in all field. Not just someone who want to become a computer scientist or a programmer (someone who can speak computers language).
The recommended way of getting the solution is
- For the kids to do discussions in groups.
- For the kids to break the problem into small parts and try solving the smaller parts.
- And finally, instruct the computer to do what they want the computer to do.
Being able to instruct a computer to do what you want it to do….. Isn’t that fun?
Why is the world forcing everyone to be a computer scientist? Why would anyone who thinks they want to be a mechanic, a politician, a farmer, a doctor or an accountant want to spend any time learning how to communicate with computers. – it just doesn’t seem relevant.
No! the world is not forcing everyone to be computer scientist. I’ve learnt English since class 1. I still can’t understand or speak good English. Anytime I write article, the AcademicVuvuzela punches to many errors in it. Past tense and present tense. I miss them anyhow. Always teasing me.
I always tell him…. That is our field, leave me alone.
Again, we’ve all learnt maths since elementary. But not all of us are mathematicians. But learning these at the elementary level has helped everyone. We are able to communicate with each other. And we are able to do our simple calculations. We don’t care about calculus or TrigWhateverMetric. And we are not ready to be Shakespeare.
In same vein, we all need to understand how that little tool called computer works to be able to fit in the next world.
The digital Economy we are heading into.
Probably, we would be dead by then. And we will not see that day WHEN ALL THINGS TURN DIGITAL…. But your kids can not skip that. We need to prepare them for that world.
- Teachers to teach it. How many are they. What is their computing skills?
At the heart of everything is the Teacher. If we fail to build the capacity of the teachers………then we are heading to a blackhole!!!
Globally, there are shortage of computer science teachers. It’s not just Ghana. So the question of
“Where are the teachers to teach it”
cannot hold us back. It’s just a challenge we have to overcome.
Shortage of teachers, and other challenges is what is affecting UK. Last year, the British Computer Society warned that the numbers studying for a computer qualification could halve by 2020 despite the change of curriculum. The capacity of the teacher is very key. When Finland started, it partnered with the private sector. Maybe Ghana can look in that direction.
- Boring and dull
Some students interview in UK said it’s dull and boring. I will personally will equate that to the type of teacher that thought those kids. It was boring to me too. But I don’t think computer science is boring at all.
Its frustrating trying to find where you forgot to put a semi colon, one child said.
- Don’t focus too much on leaning programming language
As said above, the important thing is being able to work in group, break the challenge to smaller pieces and find simplest, efficient and cost effective solution.
Given the solution to the computer is the secondary part.
Unfortunately, the new UK syllabus focused more on how to give the solution to the computer and the kids are not catching up.
Ghana, we can learn a lesson from that
If the one child one laptop policy works out. That will be great!!
Back in Novermber, 2017, we were told
From next academic year, the government intends to make computer programming part of the curriculum at all levels of education.
That is meant to empower students of all ages to develop applications that can help provide solutions to the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) needs
— Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful
This is the statement I’v being trying so hard to explain WHY WE NEED IT AS A COUNTRY.