As a UK resident and at the age of 18, I have been in the education system for the majority of my life. I think it’s fair for me to comment on education system within the UK, specifically within the I.T sector. I feel like I have a insight into the education system within the UK and can comment about my experiences and what I think are faults within it.
As most people will know at my age, when you were in secondary school (high school for you US people) you were taught no programming whatsoever. At the age of 16 I had learned HTML and CSS myself and was moving towards PHP and other things. This mistake has been rectified, but way too late in my opinion. I know a large portion of my friends who have no clue with programming at all, the worrying fact is that this is also present within Universities in the UK. I don’t have the biggest of experiences coming down to I.T in secondary school because I chose not to take it as one of my options. I chose to do this because I was already aware of the content within the lessons and that colleges actually didn’t need you to have it as a GCSE (Final grades for international peeps) to join. We were taught spreadsheets from a very early age, which in my opinion is more business than I.T, which I’ll come back to later. We were designing websites, but not through coding, just using simplistic drag and drop programs to create a basic website, not exactly I.T in my view.
For my friends who took I.T further in secondary school, they certainly did not enjoy it. Most people I have queried regarding it thought of it as useless or dull. I.T reform has been taking place (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-16493929), but obviously too late for some. Reform sounds scary to some and can have some dramatic consequences especially education, but if anyone looked at the I.T modules, they were business orientated largely which surprisingly for some of you who don’t, that isn’t I.T.
One of my first experiences in going into further education in my subject choice was that I was staggered how similar this was to business. This curse of I.T being a subcategory or similar to business has haunted me for quite a while and sadly still lives today while I take a degree. A lot of people would argue ‘we are preparing young I.T professionals for work‘ but education shouldn’t revolve around business, it should be for us to teach the younger generation how to think for themselves, learn from histories mistakes and not think they are simply a peice of meat going through the factory process.
Programming from what I was learnt in college was so ineffective I’m pretty sure no one in my class actually learnt anything. When learning programming in education you are almost spoon fed some of the core parts of programming. Most people in my class had never coded before, which at that time is perfectly acceptable. I don’t have all the answers on how we can teach programming, but I do know for sure that reading off a board, getting people to practice with pre-made code doesn’t work. I wouldn’t say I’m the best programmer but I was able to help other people from my course atleast reproduce what we were supposed to do. Usually what happens within these times where someone cannot get something to work, they wait for the teacher to help, a student is so used to this because of traditional teaching methods from secondary school. The best way for me was to go my own way, Google something if I had a problem, converse with others to see if they had a similar problem and collaborate. You should not revolve your education around waiting for some expert to fix it. Due to this lack of understanding between programming language education and traditional education, a lot of people don’t fully understand basic programming ideas. Ideas such as for, while, if, variables and data types. I’m not saying I’m the best, I pretty much have to Google most methods with any programming language because I forget them.
Grouping Business and I.T is almost shooting yourself in the foot. I have a great passion for security and finding vulnerabilties, I do not have a interest whatsoever on creating a database for a business. I do not have a interest in being a computer technician when I am taking a ‘Computer Forensics’ course, if anything I feel frustrated and disinterested by my subject field from an education point of view. It seems too bureaucratic in any form of education towards I.T, ‘you must have a rounded knowledge of your industry’ is simply false if you are not giving important information to the related course in the first place. State Education should attempt to spark curiosity within everyone to explore things outside of school, otherwise we will have a generation which will not fill the skills gap that is forever growing in the UK. The sector that will automate so many important parts of our lives, the sector that can provide so many jobs due to the huge gap (http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/sep/26/skills-gap-information-cyber-security).
To me, all that is happening in education for infosec is creating conformists. People who follow the same droll business type education, the more I think about education I start to question the conventional way of doing things career wise. More and more people in infosec jobs from what I can see seem to be acquiring these jobs by showing genuine skill by blogging, being active within the community and showing they are willing to learn.
I feel at the moment my education is slowing down, most things I learn now from traditional education are mediocre.