The UK Version of Computing in the Core
Many Americans I’ve met don’t realize that the United States doesn’t have a national curriculum, and that the Federal government is prohibited (in the bill establishing the Department of Education) from ever creating one. States control curricula. The new “Common Core” standards are interesting because they’re being established by the state Governors — the states can work together to develop a common set of standards and curricula, but the Federal government cannot create such a set. Computing in the Core is an effort to get the Governors to consider computer science in those core standards.
There’s a parallel kind of effort going on in the UK. Their new secondary school standards are called the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and the English Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has indicated a willingness to include computer science in the new EBacc. As covered by the BBC:
Mr Gove indicated that computer science could be added to the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) list of key academic subjects that teenagers are encouraged to study at GCSE. He said: “Computer science is not just a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject. It is also vital to our success in the global race.”
A working group from the British Computer Society (BCS) has now completed a report making the argument for CS in the EBacc. It’s an exciting effort, supported by a coalition of corporate and higher education interests. I don’t know how to estimate which effort (Computing in the Core vs. CS in the EBacc) is more likely to succeed or how quickly. My sense is that CS in the EBacc has the advantage in that it only has to convince a single Department for Education, as opposed to the Computing in the Core effort which has to convince a coalition of state governments.