Computer science

GCSE computer science: Students to learn about ‘impact’ of AI

DfE proposes first changes to 'outdated' subject content since 2015

DfE proposes first changes to 'outdated' subject content since 2015

GCSE computer science students will learn about the impacts that artificial intelligence can have on “individuals, wider society, the economy and the environment” under proposed revamped content.

The government is consulting on updated content for the qualification. Guidance was last updated in 2015 and “since that time digital technology has moved on, meaning that some content is outdated”, the DfE said.

The proposed content will state that students should study the “broader impacts that digital technology (including artificial intelligence) can have on individuals, wider society, the economy and the environment, including issues of ethics, legality, bias”.

The current content, from, 2015, states students should learn “the ethical, legal and environmental impacts of digital technology on wider society, including issues of privacy and cyber security”, but does not mention AI specifically.

‘Visual programming languages’ allowed

Another key change will be the opportunity for “visual programming languages” to be used in meeting the subject’s requirements, rather than textual programming languages only.

Visual languages let pupils programme elements graphically rather than specifying them textually.

The DfE said visual languages “now offer equivalent functionality to textual languages, and the underpinning knowledge, understanding and skills of programming is the same for both language types”.

The proposed changes also aim to “make it clearer what should be taught, avoiding the inclusion of specific examples which are liable to change over time, or unnecessary references to aspects of digital technology which may simply distract from the teaching of the underpinning knowledge, understanding and skills”.

“By updating the subject content, we are ensuring that the GCSE is maintained to a high standard and will continue to support students in progressing to further study, training, or employment in computing and other specialisms.”

The consultation closes in July and “it is currently projected that a revised draft of the subject content will be published early in 2025, with first teaching from the academic year 2026-27”.

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