Facebook, Microsoft, IBM and BT have been signed up by the Education Secretary Michael Gove - who thinks Tim Berners Lee is the "creator of the internet" - to offer industry insights into the type of computer science skills British school kids need to be equipped with for the workplace.
A £20,000 scholarship was also announced for graduates with a 2.1 or first class degree to train as teachers in the CompSci field, which is currently suffering from a major skills gap. But the criteria don't exactly appear to be very strict.
It would seem that English Literature grads, for example, can also apply for a scholarship to do a Computer Science Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course. Which isn't a problem for the DfE, apparently, because private companies such as Facebook and Microsoft will do the heavy lifting. They will effectively have a say in how the CompSci curriculum should be shaped by offering "expert" opinions to those individuals training to teach such lessons to school children.
Meanwhile, Gove has completely failed the CompSci exam by proudly proclaiming that Berners Lee invented the internet. Silly boy! We all know that was Al Gore...
The Secretary of State made the gaffe this morning when he said:
If we want our country to produce the next Sir Tim Berners-Lee – creator of the Internet – we need the very best Computer Science teachers in our classrooms. They need to have the right skills and deep subject knowledge to help their pupils.
The cabinet minister is also axing funding for teacher training courses in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which the DfE has labelled as "outdated". ICT will be replaced by Computer Science lessons from September next year.
According to the DfE, Facebook, Microsoft, BT and IBM will expect fresh-faced teachers trained in the CompSci discipline to demonstrate an understanding of concepts and approaches that include algorithms, data representation and logic.
While the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) is looking for scholarship candidates who can show "exceptional knowledge" and "enthusiasm" in Computer Science, it also gives a nod to the Silicon Roundabout by noting the need for "technology creators and entrepreneurs".
As for the teachers out there who already give schoolkids their ICT lessons, the government has put forward a £150,000 grant that will partly pay for the CompSci re-training of those educators.
Earlier this week, Facebook confirmed it had finally hired 12 engineers at its UK adland office in Covent Garden, London. The company's director of public policy Simon Milner said of Gove's CompSci plan:
It is a positive step to help get high quality computer science teachers in schools, and therefore ensure more young people gain the right skills to join and lead our digital industries.
We get excited by how the work of Facebook engineers and outside developers is transforming the way millions of people communicate, so we can't wait to share our passion and expertise in this area to inspire the next generation.
He might want to start with the Education Secretary, though, who clearly needs a history lesson about the World Wide Web. And given that Facebook has no plans to ever hire more than a handful of engineers in the UK, Mr Gove might ask himself whether the advertising giant should really be consulted on what the nation's schoolkids are taught in computing classes.
Oh, and the DfE may also want to kill off the external link to a fruity escort agency it's publishing on its data protection-lite website under the seemingly vanilla title "ICT Register" (on the right).
As the reader who tipped us off about this sagely noted: "The irony of this may be lost on the policy makers whose job it is to ensure our children don't access this type of material." ®