Simon Peyton-Jones is part of Microsoft Research Cambridge and co-founder of Computing at School (CAS). The aim of CAS is to expose primary and secondary school (kindergarten through high school) children to the basics of computer science. Currently, schools teach computer literacy – the use of word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.
These topics do not teach students about the basic knowledge of computer science and how to design the systems they use. CAS is pushing for computational thinking, not mere literacy, to be taught to students at a younger age.
Jeannette Wing, from Microsoft Research, defines this “as the ability to use the fundamental concepts of computer science to solve difficult problems, design complex systems, and understand human behavior.” This will teach students algorithms, system securities, and give them the foundation to study and understand the field of computer science, which is becoming increasingly vital to the 21st century.
And the approved change from the current curriculum to one focusing on computer thinking and programming is a huge victory for CAS, as it introduces a state funded system for students to learn these fundamentals.
The change in focus to computer science fundamentals and programming is a radical step for schools in the UK, and will expose students to knowledge normally reserved for the Higher Education in universities and colleges, and can in turn potentially make studies currently largely reserved for graduate studies, such as Artificial Intelligence, down to undergraduate studies.
Seeing this change will hopefully lead countries such as the United States into follow course. In a world dominated by computers, it is becoming increasingly important to learn how to design them, not merely be able to use them.