My experiences of doing GNVQ ICT and why I never took up studying computer science

I never learned any form of programming or web code whilst studying for an intermediate GNVQ in ICT at Richard Lander. While there were units available, the head of ICT wouldn't teach them even though people wanted to learn about it.

Hover over image for translation.

This time ten years ago, I would have been part way through my second year of studying for an intermediate GNVQ in ICT as part of my overall GCSE studies at Richard Lander School in Cornwall. As part of the first year group of the school to undertake the ICT GNVQ, maybe we were guinea pigs. Despite gaining a Distinction in the subject, I didn’t go on to study anything to do with ICT or computing when I went on to Further Education.

When I was studying for my GNVQ at Lander it was at a time not long after the school had been made an “Information and Technology College” – basically, they were meant to be excellent at teaching things related to computers. This was very far from the truth during my time there, with those supposedly qualified enough to teach ICT unwilling to teach any form of coding or lacking the knowledge in the first place.

But there were plenty of us there who wanted to learn.

Two years learning the nuances of Office 2000 destroyed any idea I had of pursuing further studies in anything computer related. I feared that the next level of courses would just end up being more of the same.

Monday’s BBC Newsnight that looked into how ICT education in the UK’s secondary schools was letting down the videogames industry bought back those painful memories of studying GNVQ ICT. Memories of not being even taught how to code in HTML, let alone what binary basically is – even though there were optional units that the class could have undertaken in these things and much more.

I wasn’t in an environment where self-teaching myself about these things would have been practical either. There were no materials in the school library that would have helped me and there were hardly any web sites then for self-teaching these kinds of things.

What Newsnight showed me is that things haven’t changed since I was in school.

So, if anyone from my old secondary school is reading this – please do something to sort out the ICT section of the curriculum for pity’s sake. I have heard that still isn’t that up to scratch.

And to those who argue that it’s worth learning how to use use Microsoft’s Office Suite: you don’t need an entire subject dedicated to that bullshit. You just need to teach how to use Office Suite programs as part of other subjects where using them would be appropriate. Y’know: spreadsheets and graphs in Excel for examining experiment results in Science; the finer art of Word in just about every other subject other than Art and Music; Powerpoint can be covered whenever you’re asked to do a presentation and Access – it’s not a great database program anyway. Teach ’em something else and use it as a basis in proper computing lessons that show how pretty much every aspect of ICT works off of databases in the first place.

Not exactly rocket science is it?

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2 thoughts on “My experiences of doing GNVQ ICT and why I never took up studying computer science

  1. Completely agree with this. I had a similar experiences. At college, I quit Programming after the first year, because 80% of the course was the same LEARN MICROSOFT OFFICE bullshit you seem like you had to deal with.

    I thought I’d take a different route into the Industry and decided to do a Games Design course at uni. We just weren’t learning ANYTHING. We had a Photoshop class where one entire two hour lesson was dedicated to learning how to resize an image. Seriously. After a year we hadn’t progressed much further than that. I had a Flash class where in a year we learned the extreme basics of making a flash animation. I knew a little Flash already but we didn’t get past tweening and keyframing and not once did they even mention Flash’s backend that allows all those fancy games to be made, Actionscript.

    I had a Photography class (An ENTIRE year long class dedicated to it – in a GAMES DESIGN BSC degree.) where on our first lesson the tutor turned up and asked US what we were meant to be learning that day. Oh and a single solitary hour long class a week dedicated to (OMG) Games Design. Where in an entire year I learnt nothing particularly much. Did we do any real game designing? No. Did we get to design our own FPS maps in Valve’s Hammer or similar? No. We just read through a couple of sheets that fed us incredibly basic information. SOME GAMES REQUIRE A NARRATIVE BUT THE DESIGN OF THE ACTUAL GAMEPLAY SHOULD REMAIN A PRIORITY. Well, duh.

    Add to that the fact that way over 50% (seriously) of our lectures were cancelled upon arrival and that all but confirmed that I’d leave the course to study something different at the end of the year. Although that turned out to be almost as pointless as this endeavour, I did stick with it, always hoping that we’d suddenly be taught more important things in our third year. (We weren’t.)

    And now after a total of four years at uni and three years studying various things at college, I work in a coffee shop. And, in a lot of ways, couldn’t be happier.

    I could, however, have done this 7 years ago and possibly be running my own little independent shop by now but without meaning to sound like a complete arse, c’est la vie.

  2. Pingback: SPAMBOT4000 – A ranting, personal, thought-provoking, nonsense weblog by Jonny Borders » Blog Archive » Studying for the Games Industry (and failing)

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