This morning, I came across the following article: Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD
Notwithstanding their claims of otherwise, school tests measure the ability of a pupil to memorize given statements and to repeat them during a test. There is not one single job description in the job market that mentions memorization skills as a job requirement. The ability to repeat from memory what someone else told you, is not a proof of skill. It is a proof of conformism.
The real problem that should preoccupy the OECD is that pupil results are no indicator whatsoever of future professional performance. They also write: Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results. That sounds like Bill Gates! He even dropped out!
You see, the richest man in the world is a programmer. That is no coincidence. In the global top 10, you will also find Larry Ellison (Oracle), Sergey Brin (Google), Larry Page (Google), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook).
Software is eating the world. We are only at the beginning of that process: All companies, whether they know it or not, are essentially software companies. Lots of people do not like this. But then again, denial is not a river in Egypt.
It is true that it is not because you learn how to program that you will make it into the global top 10. However, the other way around is certainly also true. You will never make it into the global top 10, if you do not know how to program. Football players and pop stars only make a few dozens of millions at best. If you want to make billions, or even hundreds of billions, you will have to come up with the winning idea and write a program. Everybody will fail in this process at some level. Most of us are quite happy with the level at which we have failed. So, why not start trying from a young age already?
There is a practical issue associated to this. I do not know of anybody who is really capable of programming, who is also willing to work in a school.
From a programmer’s point of view, mathematics and science are just other formal mechanisms. They are either backed by proofs of no original untruth or else by repeatable experiments. They are certainly interesting to look at, when you need them, or when someone refers to them while you are looking up things. The other subjects, however, will mostly strike you by the fact that they are so ineffective. Nobody is trying to achieve anything at all there. The term “useless” will often come to mind. You could conceivably use them for the improvement of your literacy skills, but then again, why not read useful things instead, to that effect?
The current school system started emerging in the 19th century. Ever since, the gap between the school system and the real world has kept growing. Nowadays, the school system has become so remote from the real world, that complaints coming from there have little relevance. I personally expect them to teach the children basic literacy and numeracy. Everything else they will have to pick up elsewhere. The perennial core business of the school pupil, that is, memorizing excerpts from a textbook, has zero value, but that is all that the schools seem to be aiming for. That is why I am fundamentally not interested in school results. I would rather be worried if a child does not complain that school is boring and useless. Furthermore, I am not interested in school’s ratings of pupils. Their ratings are irrelevant. Rating of what? Of memorization skills?
Of course, the schools say that there is more to schools than preparing pupils for future professional productivity. Indeed, I agree, and that only makes it worse. I do not want the school to teach their own brand of social and/or religious views to children. These views are contrary to what many of the parents believe and themselves teach to their children. It is not the job of the school to try to overrule the parents in that domain.
I remember a cynical incident in Belgium, when the Flemish state school system suddenly decided that Muslim girls were banned from wearing head scarves. This problem is not the school’s problem. This problem is also not our problem. It is the parents’ problem. Can you imagine that a school makes the utmost detestable decision to overrule the parents concerning their religious views? For the sake of what they termed “fairness”, they also banned the Christian girls from wearing a cross. Huh? This incident made it clear to me that the government has no right to appropriate money under the form of taxes, to organize schools, and to then their dictate the terms to the parents.
Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results roughly translates to: Computers do not make the pupils more conformist. Someone needs to explain to me why exactly that would be a bad thing?