GCSE Electronics course is stuck in a timewarp

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The Technical M
Report 18 years ago
For several years I have been trying to find out why the GCSE electronics course is so out of date
and stuck in a timewarp circa 1975.

Almost all developments in electronics since then such a microprocessors, computer and data
networks, digital radio, mobile phones and fibre optics are not found in the course. All the GCSE
course consists of is basic analogue circuits, legacy digital and crystal radios.

I always assumed it is to do with the exam boards or the crass incompetance of the education system
elites and Whitehall. Not so as they have openly stated to me they would like to see more modern
material taught. The situation is a result of the level of knowledge of the current batch of UK
electronics teachers.

According to a figure given to me by an industrialist who is concerned about the state of
electronics education and the difficulty in finding suitable employees he told me the following
percentages for the background of electronics teachers. Don't quote me if they are accurate or not
but from my personal experience they are believable.

35% are ex BT technicians trained in maintaining Strowger exchanges or former industrial workers
from companies that specialised in heavy electrical stuff like motors and transformers. They have
experience of basic electrical concepts but little knowledge of modern electronics which is why
industry doesn't want them so they turn to education as a career.

40% are former metalwork, woodwork and physics teachers who had no prior

knowledge of electronics and learnt the syllabus from a GCSE electronics

textbook. Most of these are not really interested in electronics and only teach it to avoid being
dismissed due to their real specialist skills being made obsolete by recent changes in the
education system.

10% hold high level qualifications in electronics and most are highly knowledgeable about recent
developments and modern technology.

15% come from some other background such as the military, public sector workers or straight out of
teacher training college. Their level of knowledge varies from person to person.

In summary if schools can't get enough teachers with good qualifications

then the course will become more and more dated by the year which in turn will deter more and more
students from taking electronics which in turn will mean less and less young people who study
electronics at higher level. This situation is already causing great hardship for the electronics
industry in Britain today and can only worsen with time. High school students already know the
course is outdated which is partially why it is unpopular. Only by introducing more trendy modern
topics will the decline be reversed.

Pay and poor job prospects are the main deterrent to electronics graduates and those with suitable
industrial experience in modern electronics from taking a teaching career. Industrial careers are
far more attractive in terms of pay and promotion prospects than a career in

education. Some big companies will even pay off some of that undergraduate debt !
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