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Exam board deletes C and PHP from CompSci A-levels

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A-level computer science students will no longer be taught C, C# or PHP from next year following a decision to withdraw the languages by the largest exam board.

Schools teaching the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance's (AQA) COMP1 syllabus have been asked to use one of its other approved languages - Java, Pascal/Delphi, Python 2.6, Python 3.1, Visual Basic 6 and VB.Net 2008. The final resits allowing work in C, C# and PHP will be held in June 2011.

In a document detailing the withdrawal (pdf), the AQA said the move was a response to low take-up of some of the eight languages originally allowed under its syllabus.

The board "highly recommended" switching to Pascal/Delphi because it is stable and was designed to teach programming and problem solving. Teachers planning to use Java are warned that many universities are considering dropping it from their first year computer science programmes, "as has happened in the US".

"You have to consider carefully whether you should be teaching a language that could very well be taught in [higher education]," the AQA wrote.

The allowed variants of Python and Visual Basic are presented by the AQA without comment.

Simon Humphreys, the British Computing Society's coordinator of computing at school, backed the decision.

“I understand that the reason for AQA dropping C#, PHP and C from the AS Computing examination is one of demand," he told The Register.

"Most centres offer Pascal/Delphi and Visual Basic as the language of choice for their students. This selection is based on the experience of the teacher in that centre and their own comfort with that language.

"The Computing A Level is not intended as a programming course but a course that covers the fundamentals of computing of which programming (and problem solving) form a key component."

The AQA's exclusion of C, C# and PHP - languages that are arguably more useful in practice than the now-preferred teaching languages - is nevertheless sure to spark debate. Over to you. ®

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