Is this IT education?

Is there a “flaw” in the Information Technology (IT) courses taught in many of our institutions of higher learning in Malaysia (and around the world) be it public or private? Are they being influenced by the many software houses or corporations to teach students to use the software tools that are produced by these companies?

In today’s information age, graduates are expected to know and master the ability to use certain software tools that are “deemed” essential skills in the industry. So what are these tools that are “deemed” to be essential skills? And what is not? It can be rather hard to justify it as it is only a thin fine line differentiating them.

Most of these institutions of higher learning would teach subjects that would utilize the software tools that are made by some big IT corporations. They may receive sponsorship in terms of new computers, free or discounted software licenses of their software tool as part of their education scheme. A very good example (just a tip of the iceberg) is the .NET programming languages and the Microsoft’s Visual Studio. Almost every institution of higher learning would have a subject on it.

Well, without a doubt, Microsoft’s Windows is the most widely used operating system in the world and writing applications to run on it would be “deemed” as an essential skills of an IT graduate. But is Visual Studio the only compiler (tool) available out there? Well, sad to admit, but it is indeed one of the most widely used in the industry today.

What about programming languages outside of the .NET universe? Such as PHP, Perl, Ruby, and the other programming languages that also has its significance and strength in their respective area? These are mostly open source languages and do not have the might of a big corporation to usher institutions of higher learning to include it into part of their syllabus. And sadly, most of them are not include it into their syllabus, but they are just as relevant and widely used in the industry today.

So are the big IT corporations planting its seeds on all our future IT graduates that would one day be IT professionals to become reliant on the software tools to perform and make decisions for their respective companies in deploying IT solutions? Perhaps institution of higher learning should maintain their neutrality and provide a more wholesome view of the IT industry in the syllabus taught. Graduates should be empowered with a good understanding of the basics and concepts that could enable them easily adapt without being dependent on any particular tools.

Food for thought, if we were all taught mathematics with calculators when we were in primary (junior) school, we would be so dependent on them to perform our calculations. We wouldn’t even know what is 1 plus 2 unless we press the calculator. But we were taught the basics and the concept of addition. It is only when we’ve mastered it that we started using calculators to perform more complex calculations that would have otherwise been time consuming.

Just my 2 cent of Tech enLIGHTenment…