Looking not too far into the future, it’s easy to see how important computer science skills will be. In just the past few decades, computers have become such an integral part of our lives that it’s difficult to imagine a world where we don’t use them.
With this in mind, it’s distressing to see so many schools in the United States overlooking computer science education, at least when it comes to making it a core part of the learning experience. In fact, in one recent survey, it was discovered that only about 10 percent of K-12 schools actually had computer science as part of the curriculum. With more and more jobs being added to the tech sector every year, this level of dedication to computer science (or lack thereof) needs to change, and many are getting behind efforts to do just that.
Some states have already adopted the standard of requiring computer science be taught in the classroom. In Arkansas, for example, computer science classes are now available in every high school. Arkansas’ governor, in fact, is one of the leaders of the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science. The main push with this association is to make computer science something that is commonly taught in schools.
Other efforts across the country also show promise. A new bill introduced in the Delaware legislature aims to provide students with computer science courses they can take. The goal is to help these students become computer literate, giving them the skills they’ll need to compete in the job market today and well into the future.
This is especially vital when considering that many companies are worried they don’t have the talent they need to work with many of the new technologies found today. Big data analytics, for instance, is something many organizations want to use, but there’s a significant data skills gap where demand is far outpacing supply.
Getting computer science classes into school, however, is far from simple. It’s easy to say that schools should just add more classes, but with limited resources and budgets, hiring good computer science teachers can be a difficult process. Establishing the right standards is also an item that needs continuous work. According to the Association for Computing Machinery, only 14 states actually have computer science standards at their secondary schools. That’s a far cry from what’s needed to meet the demand for computer science talent. Many schools may have elective computer science courses, but that’s quite different from making the classes mandatory, and few students in comparison actually take those courses.
The key to helping students become more tech savvy, something that many officials and experts are pushing for, is early education computer science programs. Computer programming can be a challenging skills to learn, requiring an understanding of logic, mathematics, and writing combined. Teaching the concept to students already in high school misses out on the period of development where the brain is establishing lifelong neural connections. In other words, you need to teach students early to make the biggest impact.
Some nonprofit groups have actually developed games that teach computer science in simple yet effective ways. These games teach some of the basic lessons of programming, helping students as young as five-years-old to nail down the simple lessons before moving on to more advanced ideas.
By making these games part of the regular learning curriculum, schools can prepare a whole new generation for tackling the larger issues of big data, statistics, all flash storage, and more. Equally important is making these lessons available to lower income students as well, ensuring everyone gets the same opportunity to learn a vital skill set that will prepare them for the future job market.
With so much emphasis placed on computer science knowledge these days, it’s worrying to see so little focus for the subject in school curriculums. Efforts from politicians, educational experts, business owners, and more are set to a make a difference though, giving students the chance to learn and grow. Teaching computer science can help student in a variety of other subjects as well, so they wouldn’t be losing out on valuable learning time for other areas.
It’s a change that needs to happen, and the foundation is being laid as we speak.