THE BLOG

ICT Health in the UK: Building on Success

21/05/2015 16:36 BST | Updated 20/05/2016 10:59 BST

Last month the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its Global Information Technology Report for 2015.

Issued annually, these reports index 143 countries to see how ready they are to make use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to increase economic competitiveness and improve the well-being of citizens. The resulting Networked Readiness Index is essentially a ranking of which countries are most advanced in tech and, importantly, are in the best place to benefit from it socially and economically.

So how did the UK fare? Well, overall quite well. We indexed at number eight - a gain of one point on last year and well ahead of regional economic partners such as France (26) and Germany (13). But even at number eight, there is room for improvement; not least when it comes to skills development.

The skills pillar is based on the quality of the educational system (how well the educational system of a country meets the needs of a competitive economy); the quality of math and science education; the level of adult literacy and the rate of secondary education enrollment in the countries it indexes.

Disappointingly, it's here that the UK is at its second weakest; coming 31st in the index.

When it comes to the overall quality of our education system the picture isn't much better - ranking 23rd globally. The educational challenges are most notable in the areas of mathematics and science where the UK trails in 63rd position, continuing what's been a downward trend since 2012.

It can't be stressed enough just how important it is for us to raise our game. Delivering effective and engaging teaching of math and science is crucial for the next generation of graduates who will be so important to helping our economy grow and prosper in the future.

At the Oracle Academy we believe passionately in the power of education to help ensure students are ready for their digital future. This drive must encompass the teaching of 'traditional' sciences, but also computer sciences, which are today just as important to national productivity and employability.

What's more, computer science teaching must extend beyond the traditional ICT literacy (i.e. basic technology use) and ICT skills (i.e. more advanced use including basic programming) focus. Today, we need to teach computer science (CS) as a much more rigorous academic discipline that involves not just coding and computing but also interrelated issues such as security, ethics and data analysis - all of which are skills that UK and global businesses need.

With the high demand for computer science skills being required in the workforce, it makes sense for CS to be available to every student in every school, and should be recognized as a core academic credit counting toward graduation requirements. Graduating from school should at least require one CS qualification and a higher education environment that encourages students to continue their CS studies as far as their individual ability and passion allows.

To achieve this goal and to give CS the standing it deserves, it is fundamentally important that teachers are provided with the right support; they need to be given opportunities to continually develop their own skills in order to reflect the requirements of modern business and society.

To that end, they need to be provided with access to the right teaching tools and resources to bring CS to life in the classroom. It is for this reason that the Oracle Academy not only offers teachers course elements and teaching resources to integrate into their lessons, but also runs faculty training sessions.

In this regard, we believe that collaboration between industry and educational organisations are critical.

In working together with industry, schools and teachers are best placed to develop curriculum pathways that help ensure what students learn directly correlates to what can help make them employable when they graduate. In short, industry can work with educational institutions to make CS education relevant. And this relevance plays a major role in readying a country to make the most of the ICT landscape.

The UK's performance in the WEF's skills index should act as a reminder that there is still work to be done when it comes to the way we approach ICT and CS education. A combination of greater collaboration between business and educational organisations, better access to compelling educational resources for teachers and a greater focus on CS teaching alongside maths and 'traditional' sciences should go some way towards readying our workforce of the future for the digital age.