Informatics education in Poland

(1) What is your name? What do you do? Where are you from?

My name is Maciej M. Sysło and I am a Professor at two Universities in Poland, in Wrocław (my alma mater) and in Toruń (UMK). I graduated in mathematics but I share my professional life (teaching, doing research) between mathematics (maths) and informatics (computer science, CS), between theory and applications. I am teaching maths and CS at all levels of education, including adults (teachers). I have been involved in designing and writing: (1) national core curricula for informatics and information technology since 1985; (2) educational software, (3) school textbooks, and (4) guidebooks for teachers. I am a member of the Council for Informatization of Education at the Ministry of National Education and the Polish representative to IFIP TC3. For more details see my website. Write to me or if you have any question or need more details.

(2) Is there an informatics teaching at K-12 level in Poland?

If so at which level and it is mandatory or optional? How many students take this courses? What does the curriculum look like? Who teaches it? Do you have informatics teachers in Poland or is it taught by teachers of other disciplines?

Here, only short description of informatics education in Poland is presented. For full details, see our ISSEP papers, available here.

Since 1999 the school system in Poland at the primary and secondary levels has consisted of three stages:

  1. primary school – 0-6 grades (age 6 to 13);
  2. middle school – 7-9 grades (age 13 to 16);
  3. high school – 10-12 grades (to 13 in vocational schools) – (age 16 to 19).

We describe here shortly the present curriculum of stand-alone informatics subjects approved at the end of 2008. Except the advanced informatics in some high schools, informatics subjects are mandatory on all levels. The new curriculum proposed this year (see below, item (5)) is in some parts extension and modication of the present curriculum statements towards replacing activities within information technology by learning rigorous computer science, including programming.

Primary Schools
In primary schools a stand-alone informatics subject is now called computer activities and runs through grades 1 to 6. In grades 1-3, computer activities are supposed to be fully integrated with other activities like reading, writing, calculating, drawing, playing etc. At the next stages of education students are expected to use computers as tools supporting learning of various subjects and disciplines, formal, non-formal, and incidental in school and at home. Computer activities in grades 4-6 lay down solid knowledge and skills within information and communication technology to be used at the next levels.

Middle Schools
Informatics in middle schools is taught for at least 2 hours per week for one year or one hour per week for two years. The curriculum contains a section on algorithmics, algorithmic thinking and solving problems with computers. Although programming is not included in the curriculum, an introduction to Logo or to another programming language is a popular practice in some schools. Within algorithmics, students are expected to be able to: explain what an algorithm is, provide a formal description (specification) of a simple problem situation and propose an algorithm for its solution; use spreadsheets to solve simple algorithmic problems (e.g. the change making problem); describe, how to find an element in an ordered or an unordered sequence of elements; use a simple sorting algorithm (e.g. by counting); run some algorithms on a computer – either writing a program, using a spreadsheets or running an educational software. Informatics in middle schools is supposed to introduce basic elements of informatics, as computer science, important for at least two reasons: as a starting point for informatics education of all students in high schools and as a preorientation for those students who might be interested in choosing a high school which offers a specialization in computer science. The implementation of the curriculum of informatics in middle schools has some undesirable features – most of the teachers admit that they have no time to cover algorithmic topics. However the truth is that the teachers are afraid of these topics since they are not enough condent in their algorithmic knowledge and skills to touch algorithmics with students who quite often have some experience in programming and running their own programs.

High Schools
In the present curriculum for high schools information technology disappeared as a stand-alone subject and informatics has been introduced in its place, for at least 1 hour per week for one year. In this way, informatics for all students in middle schools has been extended to high schools. This new subject is a continuation of informatics from middle school in the area of problem solving and decision making with a computer by applying algorithmic approach and also may serve as a pre-orientation, intended to prepare students for their choice of future study (e.g. informatics as an elective subject), career and jobs in computing related disciplines and areas. Informatics (understood as a rigorous computer science) remains in high schools as an elective subject and is taught only in some schools 3 hours per week for two years. Students may also take an external final examination (matura in Polish) in informatics.

(3) Is there any computer literacy teaching at K-12 level in Poland?  If so at which level and it is mandatory or optional? How many students take this courses? What does the curriculum look like?

The answer to this question can be found in the answer to question (2).

(4) Is there an informatics teacher society in Poland?

Unfortunately, No, but there was a Society of IT/ICT Teachers, very active for 10 years (2000-2010), a few years ago it has slowed down its activity and finally disappeared.

(5) How has the situation evolved in recent years?

We report here on a recent (announced in July, 2015) initiative of the Council for Informatization of Education at the Ministry of National Education to revise the curricula of informatics subjects so that computer science education will cover all school levels in K-12. Fortunately our job was only to redifine the structure and content of the subject curricula since informatics subjects already cover all school levels in the present curriculum.

The new computer science curriculum benefits very much from our experience in teaching informatics in schools for more than 30 years. In particular, it takes from the present curriculum the hours assigned to informatics subjects and unifies the names of all stand-alone informatics subjects as informatics. Therefore, according to the new curriculum, informatics will be a mandatory subject in primary schools (1-6 grades, 1 hour a week for 6 years), middle schools (7-9 grades, 1 hour a week for two years), and high schools (10 grade, 1 hour a week). Moreover, informatics is also an elective subject in high schools (11-12 grades, 3 hours a week for two years) and high school students may graduate in informatics taking the final examination (pl. matura) in informatics. We have been very lucky that the present curriculum already includes informatics subjects on each education level and we have only had to modify and extend their curricula. The same applies to the hours of instruction. Needless to say that otherwise it would be very dificult to impossible to convince the education authorities that the national curriculum needs such changes in the area which is not of the highest priority on the oficial agenda, unfortunately.

The new computer science curriculum begins with an introduction explaining the importance of computer science for our society in general and for our school students in particular. Then follow the curricula for each level of education. Each curricula consists of three parts:

  • Second part is the same in all curricula. It includes Unified aims which denfie five knowledge areas in the form of general requirements – see below.
  • First part is a description of Purpose of study, formulated adequately to the school level.
  • The third part consists of detailed Attainment targets. The targets grouped according to their aims define the content of each aim adequately to the school level. Thus learning objectives are defined that identify the specic computer science concepts and skills students should learn and achieve in a spiral fashion through the four levels of their school education.

The Unified aims are as follows:

  1. Understanding and analysis of problems – logical and abstract thinking; algorithmic thinking, algorithms and representation of information;
  2. Programing and problem solving by using computers and other digital devices – designing and programming algorithms; organizing, searching and sharing information; utilizing computer applications;
  3. Using computers, digital devices, and computer networks – principles of functioning of computers, digital devices, and computer networks; performing calculations and executing programs;
  4. Developing social competences – communication and cooperation, in particular in virtual environments; project based learning; taking various roles in group projects.
  5. Observing law and security principles and regulations – respecting privacy of personal information, intellectual property, data security, netiquette, and social norms; positive and negative impact of technology on culture, social life and security.

Two very important comments regarding the new computer science curriculum are in order. Although any curriculum defines the aims and targets to be included in any school syllabus, the curricula for particular school levels in the new curriculum contain some optional attainment targets which can be freely added to a subject syllabus or assigned only to a group of students. This is a novelty in our national curriculum and leaves some room for personalized learning of gifted students as well as students who have particular interests in specic areas of computer science and its applications (such as mathematics, science, arts). Personalization in the new curriculum is a means to encourage and motivate students to make personal choices of a range of computer science topics and areas in middle and high schools what may lead them towards computer science specialization in the next steps of education and in professional career.

Personalization is aimed at increasing students’ interests in learning then in studying computer science as a discipline, or at least in better understanding how computers and their tools work and can be used in solving problems which may occur in various areas. Another facet of personalization is a curriculum of mandatory informatics in vocational high schools for computer, electronic, and electric technicians which is fully devoted to learning computer programming. It should be noted, that our curriculum recognises the value of computer science as the underlying academic discipline and expects students to understand and use the basic concepts and principles of computer science, analyse and solve problems computationally, programming their solution, on one side (see Unied aims No 1 and 2), and on the other side, students are still expected to apply information technology and to be competent, creative, and responsible users of technology in other school subjects, disciplines, and areas of computer applications (see Unied aims No 2 and 5).

We refer to our paper presented at the ISSEP 2015 conference in Ljubljana where we discuss some implementation details and supporting activities: the role of programming and computational thinking and computer science unplugged methodology, integration of computer science with other school subjects, teacher preparation (standards, training, and evaluation), the role of outreach activities and competitions in ICT and computer science.

(6) What are the main successes and failures of K-12 informatics teaching in Poland?

As pointed out above, with our new proposal of addressing computer science and programming to all school students in K-12 in Poland, we have been very lucky that the present curriculum already includes informatics subjects on each education level – it is the success of our strategy and works included in the previous curricula – and we only modified and extend their curricula. The same applies to the hours of instruction. Needless to say that otherwise it would be very dificult to impossible to convince the education authorities that the national curriculum needs such changes in the area which is not of the highest priority on the oficial agenda, unfortunately.

Informatics in Schools in Switzerland

(1) What is your name? What do you do? Where are you from?

My Name is Walter Gander, I am a professor emeritus of ETH
Zurich. Here is my address.

(2) Is there an informatics teaching at K-12 level in Switzerland?

If so at which level and it is mandatory or optional? How many students take this courses? What does the curriculum look like? Who teaches it? Do you have informatics teachers in Switzerland or is it taught by teachers of other disciplines?

Right now, Spring 2015, the answer is no. There is no mandatory informatics teaching in schools.

Switzerland, a country of 8 million inhabitants, is divided in 26 Cantons. Each of them has its specific school system. The education is divided in Primary School (grades 1–6, some Cantons only grades 1-4), Secondary School I (grades 7-9, respectively 5-9) and several Secondary Schools II (grades 10–12). See

The Secondary School II is divided in different directions: the Gymnasium with goal to go for a study at a university, specialized middle schools and vocational schools.

The first attempt to introduce informatics in the Swiss gymnasia was when the personal computer (PC) around 1984 appeared. The minister of Education at that time, Prof. Urs Hochstrasser, changed 1986 the name of the subject “Descriptive Geometry” to “Applied Mathematics”. This was meant as a compromise to let the old teachers continue to teach
Descriptive Geometry till their retirement while giving the younger teachers the opportunity to introduce Computer Science. At that time a PC was essentially bare of software, thus it was necessary to develop applications by own programs, often written in Pascal. Spirit of
discovery and creativity inspired the students, though at the same time many teachers were frustrated by frequent breakdowns and system changes. Many of those enthusiastic former high-school students — the first generation educated in computer science — are now successful computer scientists.

In the following years many applications were developed. Computers became ubiquitous, easier to handle and there was no need to program own applications. The Internet was born and connected the world. Therefore a strong movement emerged 1995 in Switzerland that teaching programming in schools was no longer necessary. Instead one should concentrate on teaching skills to make good use of the computers.

The next reform of the matura curriculum in 1995 therefore did not mention informatics anymore. The idea was that the computer is used everywhere in each subject, from German Language teaching to mathematics. Thus the emphasis was on learning to work with computers using Microsoft Office and the Internet. There were no specific educated informatics teachers, the teacher colleges had no and still do not have training in informatics.

The situation became for the industry and for academia uneasy. Pressure to introduce “real computer science” grew. Finally with a small reform in 2008 an elective subject (Ergänzungsfach) for informatics was introduced in the gymnasia. It is usually taught by a mathematics teacher. The curriculum is quite divers, a typical example can be found in the regulations of Canton Bern.

(3) Is there any computer literacy teaching at K-12 level in Switzerland?  If so at which level and it is mandatory or optional? How many students take this courses? What does the curriculum look like?

In Primary and Secondary Schools I there is no computer literacy in the curriculum. Some Secondary Schools I offer voluntarily digital literacy lectures, others encourage the students to study for the ECDL license. In Secondary Schools II computer literacy is often mandatory and taught in most schools with big diversity.

For Secondary Schools II there is a range from a minimum of 1 weekly hour for one semester to 25% of lecturing hours for the business computer science school (Wirtschaftsinformatik).

(4) Is there an informatics teacher society in Switzerland?

yes the SV!A/SS!E/SS!I. The informatics teacher society web-page shows the current situation
of teaching in schools.

(5) How has the situation evolved in recent years?

Switzerland worked in the last years on a curriculum reform in schools. The French part finished and implemented the reform in 2013. The new curriculum PER (Plan d’études romand) does not contain informatics as a subject, computer science or informatics is not even mentioned.

The German Cantones worked on the Lehrplan21 since 2010. The first version which was published 2013 for consultation. It still referred to an overall subject “Media and ICT”, of which elements would be used in all regular subjects. No teachers and no assigned hours were scheduled for this subject. After many advances from Industry and academia, the 21 directors of educations of the 21 German speaking Cantones decided in Fall 2014 that there will be a new subject called “Media and Informatics”. The informatics part will be concerned with fundamentals and also include teaching programming. Special trained teachers will teach this part. The implementation will depend on the Canton and start in 2015.

(6) What are the main successes and failures of K-12 informatics
teaching in Switzerland?

The main failure was after 1995 to concentrate in education only on computer literacy, notably only on achieving the ECDL (European Computer Driving License). The implications were disastrous, because the young people did not understand the fundamentals of informatics. Informatics is a basic science like mathematics and needs to be part of general education.

Another new problem came up with “media education” (“Medienkunde”) which became popular in recent time in teacher colleges. It was not easy in Switzerland to explain and convince the politicians and education managers to separate informatics from media education and not to merge it as one subject under the name “New Media”. The name of the subject in the German Swiss schools is now “Medien und Informatik” but the goal is that a person educated in computer science will teach the informatics part. We expect the Cantones to start implementing the new subject in Fall 2015.


Prof. Dr. Walter Gander, Emeritus
ETH Zurich
Department of Computer Science
CAB F 10.1
Universitaetstrasse 6
8092 Zurich, Switzerland

+41 44 632 74 30 Telefon
+41 44 632 13 90 Fax

Informatics Education in Germany

Hello all and happy new year,

my name is Ira Diethelm and I am Professor for Computer Science Education at University of Oldenburg, Germany. There, I am responsible for teacher education for secondary and vocational schools for the subject Informatics. I am involved in several projects at my university for research on Informatics education and for development of teaching materials and resources.

As a member of the German Informatics Society (Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V.), I also care for the political development of Informatics in schools and for the community of researchers in the field of Informatics Education (GI-Fachgruppe Didaktik der Informatik).

As a first post in this blog for Germany, I’ll just give a short introduction on the situation of Informatics in German schools. More information will follow in the upcoming posts.

In Germany we have a so called “hexadecimal” educational system :-)  because Germany consists of 16 states (Länder) and every state has its own educational system. As a result, we have many different names and types of public schools at K-12. For a brief overview in English and German please see the official documents of the “Secretariat of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs” (Kultusministerkonferenz):

As a consequence, Informatics teaching at German schools has many facettes as well. In most states Informatics is an optional subject at upper secondary level (10-12 or 11-13). At lower secondary level (5-9 or 7-9) the schools of many states also offer Informatics as an optional subject or at least as afternoon workshops. Only a few states already implemented Informatics as a compulsory subject at secondary schools (Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Sachsen). At primary schools there is no subject for Informatics but already some schools also offer workshops or integrate parts of Informatics education in another subject (Sachunterricht).

For an English overview of the situation in Bavaria as one (good) example please see the ITiCSE WG Report on “Computer science/informatics in secondary education” by Peter Hubwieser et al.

Due to the big variety of school systems in Germany we have also a big variety of curricula. For a deailed overview of the organizational structure and curricula in German language please see this summary:

In 2008 the German Association for Informatics / Computer Science (GI) published a recommendation for an Informatics Curriculum for lower secondary level: “Grundsätze und Standards für Informatik in der Schule”. The full version in German can be downloaded here: An English summary can be found here: Many schools and first states follow these recommendations and try to teach according to these standards. Also, much teaching material has already been developed referring to these standards, e.g. related to the “Informatik im Kontext” approach:

That’s all for now.

Next post will be on the situation and education of Informatics teachers in Germany.


Informatics in Dutch education

My name is Berry Nieskens. I teach Informatics at Hyperion Lyceum, a secondary school in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

At K-12 level, there is no mandatory teaching in informatics. To my knowledge there is no overview of schools that currently offer computing for children at the age of 4-12, which doesn’t mean there are no initiatives.
In secondary education, an estimate of one third of Dutch schools offer the course ‘Informatica’ in the higher half. It’s not mandatory and its curriculum is dated. Although a revision of this curriculum is imminent, it will still provide concepts only. What actually is being taught context-wise is still up to the teachers themselves to decide.

At K-12 level, there is no mandatory teaching in digital literacy. Most schools, however, expect pupils to have basic knowledge of how to use a search engine and use productivity apps for presentation and collaborating by the end of primary school, age 12.

The Dutch teachers association is called Vakvereniging i&i (website in Dutch). It’s an association of both informatics teachers and it-managers in education. Its focus has been primarily on organising a yearly conference on IT/Informatics in (secondary) education. Other projects include Mi&i, which is a subsidy (max. €150,-) granted to informatics students, mostly used to buy hardware for school projects. Also, some members of i&i are involved in renewing the Informatics curriculum in the second part of secondary education, ages 15 – 17.

The Dutch department of education recently launched ‘Onderwijs 2032’. The goal of this campaign is to start a national dialogue on the very basics of what education should provide for pupils who will be at the end of their school career in 2032. The central question in this debate is: What knowledge and skills should children be taught in order to prepare them for the future? Are we teaching them the right skills and knowledge?
This campaign will eventually lead to a complete overhaul of the curriculum for primary and secondary school, ages 4 – 16/18 (the age of graduating students depends on the school type they attend). As you can see in the promotional video on the above mentioned website, there’s quite some attention for digital literacy and computational thinking in this process.

Meanwhile, a commission is also appointed to renew the curriculum for ‘Informatica’, the optional course in the higher half of secondary education.

The main failure in my opinion is that both primary and lower secondary schools only offer training in using common productivity software like Microsoft Office, and searching the Internet with Google. There are hardly any schools that offer computational thinking, introduction to coding, graphic design or robotics under the age of 15.
I think the ‘Onderwijs 2032′ campaign is a great opportunity to improve digital literacy and coding skills being taught in both primary and secondary education.

Please note: I am aware that this overview is incomplete. Any remarks and suggestions can be sent to Thanks in advance for your contribution. 

Informatics in Flemish schools (Belgium)

(1) What is your name? What do you do? Where are you from?
My name is Annick Van Daele. I am a member of the Flemish “Forum voor Informaticawetenschappen” ( aiming to support and develop computer science teaching in Flemish primary and secondary schools and starting up 2LinK2, the Flemish informatics teacher association (not yet online).
I teach informaticawetenschappen (computer science) in a secondary school in Ghent. My pupils are between 16 and 18 years old (level: General Education, grades 11-12)
Part of my job is at the University of Ghent. I give seminars in programming (Java and Python) and am in teachter training: our students are mostly masters in computer science and/or engineering.
(2) Is there an informatics teaching at K-12 level in Flanders? If so, at which level and is it mandatory or optional? How many students take these courses? What does the curriculum look like? Who teaches it? Do you have informatics teachers in Flanders or is it taught by teachers of other disciplines?

Although officially there is no informatics curriculum, some informatics is taught in schools however:

  • to many pupils in a course called “Informatica” in grades 9 and 10 (which includes 10 to 15 hours of “algorithmic thinking and programming” and about an equal amount of stuff on computer systems and networks).
  • to some pupils in specialized programs in “technical” schools (grades 11 and 12) on application and software development in a business setting on the one hand, and system administration on the other. These pupils get up to 5 to 10 hours of class a week which can be more or less classified as informatics (though the focus, certainly in the latter program is more on “information systems” than on “computer science”). In these study profiles, informatics is a mandatory, and even a main, subject.
  • to some, but very few, pupils in “general” education: they get informatics in grades 11 and 12; schools have the freedom to teach the subject for up to 2 hours a week, but there are no official requirements or curricula, so whether something is offered, and if so, of what quality, depends on individual teachers and teacher teams.
    Recently, since last year, some secondary schools are introducing programming classes and courses at the age of 12 (grade 7). Even some primary school are doing similar things.

We have informatics teachers at the bachelor level: they can teach in grades 7 to 10. Informatics is for them one of 2 subjects they choose in their teacher training.
Informatics teachers in grades 10 to 12 mostly have a master degree (occasionally in computer science, but most of the time in math, economics or still something else).

(3) Is there any computer literacy teaching at K-12 level in Flanders? If so, at which level and is it mandatory or optional? How many students take this courses? What does the curriculum look like?

The Flemish government has issued, in 2007, “ICT educational standards”, which should be achieved at the age of 14 (at the end of grade 8). Schools and school networks build on that in many different ways, both integrated across topics and in specialized courses or course parts. Also part of the Informatica course in grades 9 and 10 currently focusses on enhancing digital literacy, e.g. through classes on Office use.

(4) Is there an informatics teacher society in Flanders?
The association has just been founded. I am co-founder. In a few weeks, our website will be online.

(5) How has the situation evolved in recent years?

Since more than 20 years, we have a course called ‘informatica’ in grades 9 and 10, which was not officially compulsory, but highly recommended in most study profiles. Originally, it focused on programming, but over the years, it has shifted to digital literacy. Nowadays, about half of the content is on digital literacy, while the other half could be characterized as IT and CS. Due to the uncertain “recommended” status of this course, there is little if any quality control, resulting in a rather cursory treatment of the IT and CS parts by many teachers without CS background teaching the course.

Since last year, the course is no longer “recommended” by the major Flemish school networks in many study profiles. As a result, it is being suppressed in those contexts by rather a lot of schools.

Since last year, children in primary schools should get an integrated course of science and technology, which contains elements of computational thinking.

By the end of grade 8, pupils should have achieved the ICT educational standards. In the recent curricula of other courses (like languages,..) ICT use and digital literacy has been integrated. (Leading to the abolishment of the now “superfluous” Informatics course in grades 9 and 10.)

(6) What are the main successes and failures of K-12 informatics teaching in Flanders?

Although it has not been an official government policy, we do (or did) have in Flemish schools an Informatics course (with at least some IT and CS) for almost all pupils in grades 9 and 10 since more than 20 years. And teachers have been educated to teach this (and similar) course(s) since 1997.

As can be gathered from the above, the current situation of K-12 CS education in Flanders is very chaotic, with as yet little or no official steering, but many interesting (for better or worse) developments. There are e.g., in the last 2 years, a lot of initiatives outside school to bring young children in contact with computational thinking and programming (ex. Fyxilab, Coderdojo, …) A few schools have started to offer a “STEM” profile (in grades 7-8), focusing on engineering at an abstract level. These schools have taken “programming and modelling” as one of three central learning lines to be developed over the 6 years of secondary education. Some other schools have introduced computer science courses which they want to develop into a curriculum for grades 7 to 12. Several interesting initiatives aim at bringing computational thinking and programming in primary schools.

Finally, it is expected that the Flemish Academy of Arts and Sciences ( will publish a report with ambitious policy recommendations on Informatics education in Flemish K-12 in January 2015.

Computing at School Scotland


Computing At School Scotland is the teacher organisation that advocates Computing Science and Informatics teaching in Scotland’s schools.  I am Mark Tennant, one of the national committee members with Computing at School Scotland.  I can be contacted by email: and twitter: @markjtennant.

Computing at School Scotland can be found on the web at, on twitter @casscotland, and facebook.

Computing at School Scotland is part of the UK-wide Computing at School group, and is part of the British Computer Society (BCS), the chartered institute for IT in the UK.

Scottish Education

Education in Scotland is currently going through the final phase of a long-term redesign process called “Curriculum for Excellence” – CfE for short.  Part of the new curriculum includes specific outcomes for Computing Science which should be delivered to all students in the first three years of secondary education, with more advanced outcomes that can be studied by the most able students.

After the “S3″ (third year of secondary) stage, students can study Computing Science on an optional basis: National certificates administered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority are available covering a wide range of attainment levels from basic “National 3″ up to pre-university – called “Higher” in Scotland.  An “Advanced Higher” is also on offer in some schools, which roughly equates to first year of University in terms of difficulty.

As part of CfE, the certificate level courses from National 3 to Advanced Higher are in the process of being redesigned, with significant emphasis on Computational Thinking skills, as well as practical elements based around programming, web development and multimedia.

Computer Literacy

IT literacy – in terms of using computers for everyday tasks – is supposed to be embedded across all subject areas.  In practice, many schools still offer specific courses in IT literacy at all stages of the curriculum.  Teaching of IT literacy varies massively from school to school currently, and is known to be an ongoing issue in Scotland.  On the whole, most staff are IT literate and can use technology in their lessons.  Pupils and Staff are increasingly being given access to mobile technologies like Tablets to use in class.

Successes and Challenges in Scotland

The new CfE has been a boost overall for Computing Science; it is now explicitly in the Pre-S3 curriculum and the certificate courses in senior school are getting a much-needed update.  This has not been without problems though:

  • not all schools fully understand the need to deliver the Computing Science outcomes in the lower phases;
  • some schools lack the subject experts to do this, or to deliver certificate level courses;
  • there is still a lack of understanding about the subject, and it is often confused with IT literacy by senior levels of management;
  • Only 2 of Scotland’s 6 Teacher Education Institutions are training Computing Science teachers, and those are small numbers when compared to retirements and those leaving.  This has caused a drop in the number of suitably qualified teachers;
  • Student numbers electing to study at senior level were in decline until recently.  The introduction of CfE makes it hard to draw conclusions as to whether this has been reversed, as we have gone from two certificate subjects (Computing, Information Systems) to one (Computing Science);
  • Staff often do not have confidence in newer areas of the curriculum such as Web Development to teach it effectively;

Computing at School Scotland has only been in existence for three years.  In that time a lot of progress has been made.  We received funding in 2013 from the Scottish Government to run a Professional Learning programme – PLAN C – that aims to update the pedagogy used in classrooms to deliver the subject based on known areas of success in teaching Computing Science.  We have established a national conference focusing on new skills and ideas for the classroom.  We have built links with Higher Education, Government and Education Authorities to advocate Computing Science education in schools.  We have used a combination of approaches to gauge the Professional Learning requirements of teachers at both Primary and Secondary, and managed to use Freedom of Information legislation to track teacher numbers.  Lastly, the Scottish Government has launched a Skills Investment Plan for Computing-related careers; CAS Scotland was identified as a key partner in this to continue improving the delivery of Computing Science education in Scotland’s schools.

Exciting times in Scotland, but many challenges remain.

Computing At School – England

(1) What is your name? What do you do? Where are you from?

I’m Simon Humphreys, National coordinator, Computing At School (CAS), which roughly translates to managing the day-to-day activities of the CAS group!  I taught music before a hearing impairment forced a change in direction and went back to university to read Computer Science.  Having graduated I taught in Cambridge.  With colleagues and friends from other schools, academia and industry the Computing At School working group was formed.  The CAS group now has over 15,000 members and recently won the Best Practice in Education Award from Informatics Europe!   In whatever spare time he has left he is writing and arranging music for the nationally regarded Cambridge Touring Theatre Company.
(2) Is there informatics teaching at K-12 level in England?
If so at which level and it is mandatory or optional? How many
students take this courses? What does the curriculum look like? Who
teaches it? Do you have informatics teachers in England or is
it taught by teachers of other disciplines?

A new national curriculum was introduced in September 2014 for all state maintained schools in England.  This includes a brand new subject – Computing.  This has replaced the pre-existing ICT curriculum. The curriculum starts when pupils enter the school, we call that Key Stage 1, through to the end of Key Stage 3 when pupils elect to follow exam courses taken when they are 16 years old.  It is also expected that pupils at Key Stage 4 schools have the opportunity to study aspects of IT and computer science at sufficient depth to allow them to progress to higher levels of study or to a professional career.

The curriculum includes three strands:

  • Computer Science – the academic discipline encompassing programming languages, data structures, algorithms etc
  • Information Technology – the use of computers including aspects of IT systems architecture, human factors and project management
  • digital literacy – the general ability to use computers, a set of skills rather than a subject in its own right

(3) Is there an informatics teacher society in England?

Yes.  Computing At School!  CAS is a grass roots organisation, whose energy, creativity, and leadership comes from its members. It is now part of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT who have provided much needed support and recognition for CAS.  CAS has additional formal support from major industry partners, including Microsoft Research, Google, Ensoft. Our membership is open to everyone, (teachers, parents,exam boards, industry, professional societies, and universities), which has been hugely significant in our development and success.  We are now recognised as an influential organisation in terms of policy and decision-making at a statutory level.

(4) How has the situation evolved in recent years?

As mentioned earlier, the English National curriculum for ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has been completely reformed, and now explicitly embodies Computer Science as a foundational part of the curriculum, starting from primary school.  This is a very significant change.  In 2008 there were no GCSEs (age-16 national examinations) in Computer Science. Now every awarding body offers such a GCSE.  For CAS, our online community is attracting over 800 new embers each month and we are now running over 130 local “hubs” for teachers.  We are also funded by the government to run a national programme of training for Computing teachers.
(5) What are the main successes and failures of K-12 informatics
teaching in England?

We are the start of our journey!  I could quote statistics illustrating how the previous curriculum did not adequately support the needs of industry, nor did it encourage students to want to study Computer Science at university but I’m not sure how helpful that would be.  One thing does seem to be clear is that in almost every country in the world the realisation has dawned that young people should be educated not only in the application and use of digital technology, but also in how it works, and its foundational principles. Lacking such knowledge renders them powerless in the face of complex and opaque technology, disenfranchises them from making informed decisions about the digital society, and deprives our nations of a well-qualified stream of students enthusiastic and able to envision and design new digital systems.

Here in England we’ve been very clear to:

  • Articulate and define the subject as a discipline, something that ALL children need to learn from the moment they enter the school.  Computer Science is not just a university-level discipline!
  • Trust our innovative teachers.  They are in the vanguard of implementing this change and enabling them to share their experience and passion with their colleague is very powerful.

Computing at School – Northern Ireland


My name is Ann O’Neill.  I am a part-time lecturer in Computing at Stranmillis University College, Belfast, Northern Ireland.  I currently teach Scratch programming, the Raspberry Pi (including Python programming) and App Inventor 2 to primary and post-primary BEd and PGCE student teachers.  I also deliver Professional Development training to teachers on each of these.  I have 14 years’ industrial experience (before becoming a teacher) working in software engineering in all stages of the software development life cycle including programming, analysis, design and project management.


Background – School in NI

In Northern Ireland, school is compulsory from age 4yrs to 16yrs.  Children attend primary school (age 4 – 11) and post-primary school (age 11-16/18).  The school curriculum applies to all 12 years of compulsory education:

Primary:                 The Foundation Stage (Years 1 & 2)

Key Stage 1 (Years 3 & 4)

Key Stage 2 (Years 5 – 7)

Post-primary:         Key Stage 3 (Years 8 – 10)

Key Stage 4 (Years 11 – 12)

There are approximately 800 primary and 200 post-primary schools in Northern Ireland with a total enrolment of approximately 320,000 pupils.

Although part of the UK, we have our own curriculum which is funded by the NI Executive


The NI Curriculum

The Northern Ireland Curriculum comprises Areas of Learning, Cross-Curricular Skills, and Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities.  Using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) is one of three statutory cross-curricular skills.

There are a variety of Using ICT activities available at Key Stage 1 & 2 including Desktop Publishing, Film and Animation and Interactive Design. At Key Stage 3, Using ICT includes a wide range of activities including: CAD, Data Handling, Desktop Publishing, Exploring Programming, Game Making, Web Design, Working with Moving Images/Animation.  Although programming is not mandatory in the NI curriculum, it is an option.  Scratch and Logo are included in ‘Interactive Design’ at Key Stage 1 & 2 and Scratch, Logo and Game Maker are included in ‘Exploring Programming’ and ‘Game Making’ at Key Stage 3.

New assessment and reporting arrangements for Using ICT became statutory from 2013/2014.  From September 2014 it will become compulsory for schools to assess and report a Level of Progression in Using ICT for each pupil at the end of Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. 

Primary school pupils are taught Using ICT by their class teacher who up until now will have had little or no specialised training in the subject.  Post-primary pupils may have as little as 35 mins of ICT per week for two of the three school years of Key Stage 3.  This is usually, but not always, taught by an ICT specialist teacher.

All pupils sit GCSE examinations at the end of year 12 (age 16) and many stay on at school to sit GCE A Levels at the end of year 14 (age 18).  Currently pupils can study ICT or Applied ICT at GCSE and A Level.

A new GCE A Level has recently been introduced, Software Systems Development, with the first awards due Summer 2015.  This was introduced as a result of research with the IT industry which indicated a shortfall in programming skills in NI.  Currently 12 schools (approx. 200 pupils) have registered to sit the new A Level in 2015.

There is no computing GCSE, although some schools enter pupils for a Computing GCSE through English examination boards (OCR and AQA).


Computing/CS Education for teachers

At present, Stranmillis University College Belfast is the only Teacher Education Institute in Northern Ireland where all (of the 600) Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students, each year,  undergo training in Computing.  This programme is in its second year.  All primary and post-primary ITE students learn the concepts of Computing through Scratch programming.  A course on the Raspberry Pi reinforces this through Python programming and Sonic Pi as well as teaching the fundamentals of Computer Science – from the Linux operating system to physical computing (e.g. creating a Scratch project to simulate traffic lights by illuminating LEDs).  Post-primary ITE students are learning how to create apps for Android phones and tablets using App Inventor 2.


Computing / Informatics teacher society

The umbrella computing/informatics teacher society in Northern Ireland is Computing At School (CAS):


Recent years

Industry has been supportive in sponsoring STEM events including a recent CAS NI conference.  However, there has been a lack of government funding to train teachers in Computing.  With budgets being cut, schools are finding it increasingly difficult to fund Professional Development training in Computing for their teachers. 


Ann O’Neill

Informatics in French schools

What is your name? What do you do? Where are you from?

My name is Jean-Pierre Archambault, I am the president of EPI, the
french informatics teacher society. I have taught mathematics all my
career and also informatics for many years. (More in French here

Is there an informatics teaching at K-12 level in France?  If so
at which level and it is mandatory or optional? How many students take
this courses? What does the curriculum look like? Who teaches it? Do
you have informatics teachers in France or is it taught by teachers of
other disciplines?

JPA: Since 2012, there has been an optional course “Informatics and digital
sciences” for twelfth grade students with a major in science. It is
offered in a third of the french high schools and students have a
choice between four courses (advanced mathematics, advanced physics,
advanced biology or introduction to informatics). About 15 000
students have chosen this course this year. The curriculum involves
algorithms, programming languages, information theory, computer
architecture and networks.  The curriculum has been translated to
English there:

The high school mathematics curriculum also involves a small part on
mathematical algorithms, with a glimpse of programming (tests and
loops, but neither functions nor arrays, for instance).

Besides that, there is also some informatics contents in technical and
vocational schools, but informatics is not identified as a topic per
se there.

There are no informatics teachers in France, so informatics is always
taught by teachers of others topics.

Is there any computer literacy teaching at K-12 level in France?
If so, at which level and it is mandatory or optional? How many
students take this courses? What does the curriculum look like?

JPA: All middle school students should obtain a certificate called
“Informatics and Internet” at the end of ninth grade. But there are no
courses in schools to prepare this certificate.

Is there an informatics teacher society in France?

JPA: Yes, the EPI (whose name means: Informatics in Public Sector
Education).  It has followed the ups and downs of informatics teaching
in France since 1971. It is presented there

How has the situation evolved in recent years?

JPA: During the eighties, informatics was an optional topic offered in half
of the high schools. It was working very well and about to be
generalized to all schools. But it has been suppressed in 1992, then
recreated in 1995 and suppressed again in 1998.

It has then been replaced by this computer literacy certificate called
“Informatics and Internet”.  But, in my opinion, this approach aiming
at developing computer literacy through the use of computers in other
topics has been a failure.

What are the main successes and failures of K-12 informatics
teaching in France?

JPA: The optional informatics courses of the eighties has been a success,
as well as the introduction of programming in Logo in elementary
schools.  There has been also some positive evolution of technology
classes in middle schools in recent years.