Research degrees - the Graduate School

Integrating Digital Competencies

Aims

The project aims to conduct curriculum inquiry into the digital skills development in order to open up a wider range of careers paths in technology.

Raising awareness of career and entrepreneurship opportunities in the digital economy among BME and female students is essential. There is a need to address a complex range of influences, the emphasis on effective embedding digital skills in the wider curriculum is proposed as a part of the solution.

The University of West London is working with schools and FE colleges in developing novel pedagogy for digital skills acquisition. The project is funded by the BERA (British Educational Research Association) Curriculum Investigation Grant 2017.

Background

Following the Reform of the National Curriculum in England (February 2013) report, schools and colleges have embarked on embedding digital technology in the curriculum.

Despite long standing campaigns from the government, education and industry there remains a distinct gender gap (only 16% of girls will go on to a degree in digital technology), the low representation of female technologists and entrepreneurs in the digital economy persists throughout education and into workforce.

Breaking the barriers

Raising awareness of career and entrepreneurship opportunities in the digital economy among female students is essential. As shown by research from FDM children from all backgrounds tend to identify with such role-model entrepreneurs as:

  • Bill Gates (Microsoft)
  • Steve Jobs (Apple)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

not

  • Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo)
  • Ratheesan Yoganathan (CEO of Lebara).

Ethnicity remains the major determinant of the attainment gap, while the lack of gender diversity remains a continuing concern in wider Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers; the UK is missing out on a large talent pool.

A one day workshop Women in Digital Innovation: Inspiring Leaders and Entrepreneurs Workshop was held on 25th May 2017 at King’s College, London. Inspirational female role models in technology leadership and digital entrepreneurs shared their views on the schools and HE curriculum.

Addressing stereotypes

The Royal Society describe the role of school and college education in preparing digitally-skilled UK workforce as nurturing students with strong information literacy and a mind-set that is flexible, creative and adaptive.

According to survey data in 2015, 60% of 12-year-old girls in the UK perceive digital technology as

  • too difficult to learn
  • ‘boring and techie’
  • suited for boys

while only 14% of parents said they understood career opportunities that opened for their daughters in STEM and much less in digital entrepreneurship.    

Don’t say ‘digital’

The research revealed negative perceptions of girls across age groups of 12-16 and 16-18 year olds about their digital competencies confidence.

Project-based activities and focus group interviews with KS3 students from various backgrounds showed that the perception of cyber security and computing careers in general being out of the scope of choice for girls are instilled long before the GCSE levels.

Cyber innovation and entrepreneurship are perceived as too hard to pursue and risk avoidance (particularly financial risk) are still high on the list of their perceived barriers. The good news is that female students are highly competitive and excel at problem solving.

Results

The focus group data analysis will help construct a rich picture of the curriculum interventions needed at the school and college level to inspire female and BME students to enter the field of digital entrepreneurship and answer the Government priorities of the future.  

The work on curriculum development for promoting gender diversity in digital entrepreneurship received Celebrate Enterprise 2017 award.