Are Welsh children able to keep up to date with constantly advancing tech?

If you were to imagine what the technological landscape would look like in 2020, it would be fair to say that – given the current speed of advancement – there will be some great strides in the next five years.

Sure, we’re not talking hover-boards, jet packs or traveling in glass tubes. But certainly when looking at bio-technology, wearable tech, travel and the internet of things, just about every industry will see notable technological changes and advancement. Yet 2020 is the year that children who started school in 2015 will sit their GCSEs.

This begs the question, are Welsh children able to keep up with the ever advancing technological world around us? Arguably, this debate falls into two categories – access to technology and application of digital skills.

Across the UK, the physical presence of technology in schools in on the rise, with a recent study claiming that 70% of primary and secondary schools in the UK now use tablet computers. This mirrors an Ofcom study that found that 71% of 5 to 15 year olds had access to a tablet device at home.

However, a 2014 survey of 2000 secondary school pupils in Wales found that only 44% thought they had good access to technology in the classroom, differing greatly from the UK figures. Without access to up to date and relevant technology, our pupils will not be able to adapt to changing technology – practice makes perfect.  

Yet the strides to include technology in the classroom are there – we recently worked with pupils at Penarth school, Ysgol Y Deri to trail a hybrid PC, Fizzbook Duo. The kit was designed with primary schools pupils in mind, meaning it is smaller with a detachable tablet. It even has lower case letters in a large font that makes it easier for young children to engage with as they learn how to write and develop their language skills.

Application of digital skills, however, is another matter. While it’s vital that school children have the appropriate hardware to use, learn and practise with, this means nothing if they aren’t being taught the skills that will enable them to grow and adapt with the technology. Essentially, children need to learn the language of technology that will enable them to turn their hand to future challenges.

In England, the need to make sure the next generation is tech literate has already been addressed, with computing and coding part of the primary and secondary school curriculum. However, here in Wales, we are still in the ‘review’ stage.

A story on the BBC last year stated that a similar curriculum change would not be possible for at least 4 years. That would mean that there would be no official curriculum for modern technological studies until 2018, with those students sitting their GCSEs in 2023.

Giving the students the necessary hardware to meet their needs is important, but if the curriculum and training doesn’t keep up with the technological advances, then the Welsh graduates and workers of tomorrow face the stark reality of competing against those whose CVs are far more up to date. With the growing efficacy of teleworking, competition will be fierce. Will Welsh pupils be ready?

Az Ashraf is director of Newport-based A2Z Computing.

Image credit: Brad Flickinger