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Teach children about using AI at secondary school, IT professionals say

The BCS has called for a new alternative digital literacy qualification for secondary school pupils (Peter Byrne/PA)
The BCS has called for a new alternative digital literacy qualification for secondary school pupils (Peter Byrne/PA) The BCS has called for a new alternative digital literacy qualification for secondary school pupils (Peter Byrne/PA)

Schools should teach children how to use artificial intelligence (AI) tools from the age of 11, according to the professional body for computing and IT.

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has called for pupils to be taught to use tools such as generative AI chatbot ChatGPT, and the strengths and limitations of such programmes, to help them succeed in life and help the UK compete in the global AI marketplace.

The professional body said a new alternative digital literacy qualification was needed at secondary schools that had an emphasis on AI and other modern digital skills.

Julia Adamson, director of education at BCS, said: “Young people need modern digital skills, like understanding how AI chatbots can help them in their life and career, but these aren’t covered in the current GCSE which is highly theoretical.

“The digital literacy options available need to change immediately so that the UK’s teenagers don’t get left behind.

“What we have now is great if you want to become a computer scientist – degrees in computing are more popular than ever.

“But children who aren’t going to specialise in coding early on also have a right to those essential digital skills, including understanding AI, so they can hold their own in the global workplace.

“Everything from marketing to law is going to require pretty strong knowledge of generative AI in the future so it has to start in the classroom at a young age.”

In response to fears over AI potentially impacting jobs, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously spoken of AI tools becoming “co-pilots” in the workplace in the future, being used by workers to help with repetitive tasks and administrative work.

BCS said understanding AI should also become a key part of teacher training and headteachers’ professional leadership qualifications.