What are schools for? Come on, tell me, take 2 minutes and write it down on a scrap of paper and hand it in at the end of todays Cyber Insights Class.
Education was a key topic in the recent general election, usually the discussed topics were standards and funding, but nobody says what schools are actually for. Ok, I’m being a bit provocative here and I’m not about to suggest that schools are sold off to the highest bidder, but their true role in the complex life blood of society needs to be openly discussed and developed. Pink Floyd, in their song ‘Another Brick In The wall’ stated that ‘we don’t need no education’, but in fact we do, it just has to be the right education for the times we are living in.
From my armchair analysis and my years working inside of education I think schools should be disseminating the skills and knowledge that the future generations need in order to make a valid contribution to society as a whole. You may wish to state that schools already do that, but do they, do they really? How can a school possibly know what skills a child doing their GCSEs this year (aged 15) will need to have used by the time they retire – which in case you don’t want to do the maths is approximately 2065. Are schools preparing them for the future, or still teaching them in the past?
There is a developing skills gap in cyber security. Conservative estimates from all manner of studies state that we could be facing a shortfall of anywhere between 50% and 90% of the workforce needed in cyber security to be confident of keeping the developing threats in check. That’s over the next 10 years. Schools have a duty to pick up this shortfall and start to actively push cyber security and in fact IT in general is a core subject.
The government has published it’s ‘Cyber Security Programmes and resources for schools and further education’ attempting to encourage schools to add it into their teaching. I personally, and I admit that I am biased, would like to see core IT skills, including at least the basics of cyber security, made mandatory across the UK curriculum.
My reasoning for this is two fold. Firstly understanding IT, its use, its mis-use, its benefit to society and how to protect oneself whilst using technology would be a welcome life skill for all. Secondly individuals should learn that moving into a career in IT, be that cyber security, infrastructure design, programming, management, support or even training has a greater chance of providing a long term career than some of the other subjects that they are being forced to learn.
Many schools do have very good IT curriculum’s but it is by no means universal. In the town where I live I have close connections with two schools who are literally neighbours. One has an IT curriculum that is inspired, exciting and forward looking, the other prefers tradition and the sound of leather on willow. The truth is that IT moves fast, it’s dynamic, it’s fluid. The frameworks of education does not move as fast, are not as fluid and could be argued that are not dynamic at all.
How can this change? How can cyber security and IT get equal billing on the timetables of all? I don’t know and it will take greater minds than mine, those with a powerful vision, a strong future looking ethic to make the changes necessary. Our proud history of education, which is one of our greatest exports, is to be respected but it should not encumber us from dropping subjects that were useful for the past generation and adopting subjects that will be more useful for the future.
We do need education, we need education that is going to fill the skills gap that the UK faces, get cyber security on the curriculum and get pupils who are studying IT now into the workplace as cyber experts in the next 5-10 years. Pink Floyd stated that ‘all in all you’re just another brick in the wall’, close chaps, you were close, we actually need education to provide us a few more bricks in the ‘firewall’.