The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Shirley William)
No, Sir. This would not be appropriate, but I welcome the steps which are being taken on those lines by the co-ordinating committee recently established by the organisations chiefly concerned with computer education. My right hon. Friend is represented on this committee by an assessor.
My Department last week issued a bulletin giving full details of the extensive range of computer courses in technical colleges which lead to qualifications of a national character. I am sending a copy to the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Hunt
Does this bulletin refer to the private computer programming schools? Surely the hon. Lady is aware that many students find the certificates which they obtain at these private schools virtually useless in obtaining employment. Would not a national examination, such as I suggest, provide a univerally acceptable qualification which would help to weed out the inefficient and the more dubious of these schools?
The bulletin is concerned with courses available at maintained schools, including colleges. With regard to independent schools, we have no power to impose a syllabus or to 601 require that that syllabus shall lead to a recognised examination. But the Board concerned with computer examinations is now drawing up a list of nationally recognised qualifications. I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern and also that some of these certificates are virtually worthless, but one can only draw the attention of would-be students to the fact that there are adequate and free courses available in the maintained system if they choose to take them.
§ Mr. Dobson
Would my hon. Friend agree that there is a wide divergence of courses in schools, some of them very shallow in scope and virtually useless as a means to achieving qualifications? Would she think again about this and encompass computer courses inside industry, for which there is still no recognition once the person concerned has finished the course?
Consideration is being given to the point in the latter part of my hon. Friend's Question. I was, of course, referring to the colleges rather than schools. He will know that the setting up of the Council for National Academic Awards is leading to the recognition of high standards of qualifications in this respect, but this is a recent development.
§ Mr. Hunt
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was not aware that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Dobson) was rising to put a supplementary question.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the hon. Lady's reply, I beg to give notice that I will seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment as early as possible.