Addressing the digital skills gap with computational thinking

December 14, 2018 // By Jonathan Smith
It is estimated that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t currently exist. Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, the skills that are needed to survive this new working economy are not currently taught in schools, with subject-based knowledge still the priority.

Nevertheless, we are seeing a growing awareness in education of the need for the current curriculum to change to equip young people for the future. This has led to a new focus on what children are being taught and the approaches that should be taken when teaching them. 

The evidence to support this change is there - the “Future of Jobs” report by the World Economic Forum, published in 2018, states that the skills deemed important for school leavers entering the workforce are already changing considerably and 35% of skills valued in 2005 will have changed by 2020. Creativity, critical thinking and complex problem solving are increasingly sought after, over and above traditional subject-based knowledge. This reflects a change in job type, already happening in the market and driven by the pace of development in intelligent buildings, smart cities and the Internet of Things which are creating new roles and jobs for current and future school leavers.

Jeannette Wing, former head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University in the USA, sees computational thinking as the key. Jeanette believes that computational thinking should be added to every child's analytical ability, enabling them to formulate and solve problems, design systems, and understand human behaviour using concepts that are fundamental to computer science. In the UK this has been recognised, and the Department for Education has mandated that some level of computational thinking be taught at all grades from nursery to college, exposing every schoolchild to computational concepts so that it becomes second nature to embrace the approach in whatever discipline they operate in moving forward.


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