U.K. School Curriculum Gets a High-Tech Makeover
New curriculum puts greater emphasis on robotics, 3D printing, and the technology of business.
By Steve Anderson, RobotXworld - Filed Jul 10, 2013

The design and technology syllabus, part of the national curriculum of the U.K school system, recently got some redesign of its own to get a bit more focus on technology. According to reports, the new curriculum will contain a diminished focus on some topics in favor of a greater focus on things like robotics and 3D printing, especially the technology of business.

The revisions came after concerns emerged about an earlier draft of the design and technology syllabus, which was said to be unusually heavy on topics like flower arranging, bicycle maintenance, cooking and sewing. Indeed, some notables like inventor Sir James Dyson, believed the curriculum was too heavy in “life skills” and too light on more academic fields of study.

But the redesign is set to ratchet the levels of high-tech in the curriculum through the roof, as several new technologies are said to be in the listings. Included in the revised curriculum are sections on the aforementioned topics of 3D printers and robotics, but also on things like laser cutting systems and programming microprocessors.

The redesign itself, meanwhile, was part of a larger initiative geared toward shaking up the larger school system, including new focuses in math, science, history, English and even art and physical education. A set of new lessons are prepared and will start working into English state schools starting in 2014, which are said to be much more heavily geared toward “core knowledge” topics. Among the topics set to launch here are training in fractions for students as young as five, discussions on the theory of evolution for students as young as nine, and the building of a complete electrical circuit before the end of primary school.

Meanwhile, design and technology got the biggest overall shake-up, as students as young as five will be getting basic structural engineering tasks—building structures and making same stronger—while children under 11 will get training in computer-aided drafting.

Some might believe that this is a bit too much too soon, but it's hard to fault the British government for sheer ambition. This is a broad set of topics, and likely will encourage many children to go into areas of technological development. Given where the pace of society overall is headed—which may well be headed into outer space at one point—that's not a bad idea. But by the same token, it's worth considering that some training in the older skills, like bicycle maintenance and cooking, may not be such a bad idea itself. It's never a bad idea to have a fallback position, and should something happen to ###### the pace of overall technological development—like, say, a massive solar flare—it would likely be a good idea to have a few seemingly obsolete skills on hand. However, the sheer growth of robotics in fields like healthcare are certainly a point in favor of learning more about this new technology.

Still, the British school system is clearly taking a full course load, and as long as it doesn't burn out the students, it should pay dividends in the end. It's clearly playing the hand dealt to it, and preparing kids for a very likely future with very high technology.

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