Sunday, May 23, 2010

The AQA Language Debate – UK v Vietnam

This article (“Exam board deletes C and PHP from CompSci A-levels”) has received a bunch of Slashdot comment, and I wouldn’t have entered the fray but for my recent trip to Vietnam.

The point of my trip was to see an offshore development team, and very good they were too. One of the things that they drew particular attention to was the fact that at university in Vietnam, they don’t study “things like Fortran”, but “commercial skills” like C++, .NET, Java, and that all students spend a year in industry as part of their course. The point being that all graduates are good to go from the day they leave – they emerge from University ready to contribute.

Contrast this with the perverse nature of the UK education system – no one can persuade me that learning VB6 is more progressive than PHP or C  - it’s absolutely ridiculous, and as for the BCS approving of the decision – well that just confirms everything I’ve always thought about them (beards & sandals).

It also seems completely counter-intuitive from the point of view of the students themselves, especially at A-level. Teach them PHP and they’ve got enough to go and build a website. Teach them VB6 or Pascal and they’ve got enough to what – write an Excel macro? Which do you think they’d rather do?

Just for the record, these would be my language choices:

  • The basics:
    • C, C++
  • Commercial frameworks:
    • .NET (C#) or Java
  • The web:
    • Python, PHP or Ruby
    • Javascript
    • HTML, CSS & XML
  • SQL - can’t really get away without it
  • Just for the fun of it:
    • Erlang, Lisp, Smalltalk, F# ?

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