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Woefully Inadequate Pretty Much Sums Up the State of Computer Science Education

on Monday, Dec. 17th

National Computer Science Education Week is an opportune time for the National Science Foundation to decry the dearth and quality of computer science education in public schools.

That’s pretty much what Jan Cuny does in this 360 Science podcast.  As the NSF’s program coordinator for computer education and broadening education, she says only 19 percent of public school students take a “real” computer science course — one that teaches computation and its role in problem solving.

“Computer science ensures our global competitiveness…and it’s crucial to achieving major national and societal priorities. At the same time, we’re teaching (it) less…in our schools,” Cuny tells host Laurie Howell.

Classes that focus on basic computer literacy, like keyboarding and software skills, are often substituted for career-prep computer/engineering classes. Even at the high school level, Cuny says, kids might learn programming for a year, but they never learn the context of the field, like the use of computation and programming throughout chemistry, engineering, big data, etc.

She says there’s a misperception that there aren’t jobs in the field, citing recent announcements by Microsoft of more than 3k jobs unfilled, and companies like GM that have announced a hiring binge of more than 10k IT specialists.

Parents could stand to be more actively demanding better computer science courses, Cuny argues, but because they’re often over-impressed with their little digital natives’ skills on tablets and Facebook, they don’t often see the need.

Another issue that Cuny cites is that most people who get computer science degrees don’t go into teaching. But she says other teachers of other subjects related to computation could do a fine job, with a little professional development.

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