Computer science is no longer seen as just a skill for solving problems. It is now the language of the digital age. As the world advances in technology, students in K-12 need computer science education to be competitive. Studies conducted by Code.org show that U.S schools are missing the mark when it comes to this form of education. Across 37 states, only 4.7% of high school students are enrolled in foundational computer science. There are many reasons behind this, including a dearth of qualified instructors, limited technical support and training, and scanty resources.
Look at the latest technological advancements and it’s evident that computer science is ubiquitous. Smart phones. Self-driving vehicles. Wearable devices. Pervasive computing is everywhere and it’s a growing trend that’s here to stay. However, to keep up with a world of automation, the expansion of computer science education in America needs to be kicked into high gear. According to the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, just 51% of high schools offer computer science. Part of the problem is finding qualified teachers to teach the next generation of tech talent. Research studies indicate that students of color and those residing in rural and low-income communities are least likely to attend schools that offer the subject. With few qualified teachers to fill the roles, schools have been forced to hire teachers from other subjects or just not fill vacancies at all. In fact, many computer science courses are taught by a teacher who does not hold a computer science teaching credential: only 46% of computer science teachers held a credential in computer science. Since most teachers do not have the skills to teach the subject, it makes it difficult to provide adequate instruction for students. How can we mitigate disparities if access is limited to those of certain backgrounds? Who’s going to fill vacant job positions, if many aren’t equipped with the skills needed to perform the duties required for tech roles? These are valid questions and issues that leaders in education need to confront.
Staying up to date on the newest computer science skills is critical for many professions in the tech industry. The more you know about the latest trends, the better your chances are of developing a successful career. This is also applicable to computer science teachers. However, many are not able to keep up with the speed of change due to the acceleration of innovation. There is also a lack of funding allocated for teacher professional development and technology access in schools. In addition, computer science is also one of the widest fields of study. It touches virtually every aspect of life and human knowledge. The field encompasses so many different areas such as cybersecurity, software design, hardware design, information systems and networking, artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, and robotics to name a few. Skills such as programming languages, data structures, and algorithms are becoming more and more relevant as the world becomes more digitized. This is especially true for jobs in cybersecurity or data science. New programming languages such as Python and R become increasingly popular as demand for coding increases. Data structures, which were once a part of a basic curriculum, now have courses dedicated to them because data is becoming a larger part of our lives every day – from medical records to music streaming services. And algorithms that were once only used by machine learning engineers are now being implemented into machine learning software packages because of their usefulness in predicting customer behavior. Learning such vast material can be extremely overwhelming, particularly for one who lacks a background in computer science.
Technical issues with downloading coding software also presents another hurdle for educators. The typical response is to download the software, install it, and then find that there are compatibility issues with the computer or coding environment. There are many companies that don’t provide any sort of technical support for downloading coding software or there may a delay in response time. This can be very frustrating for teachers who must spend hours on their own trying to figure out how to download the software so they can allow students to develop applications. And for school districts with tight budgets and lack of resources, paying for external support can cause a financial burden.
Computer Science has been recognized as a critical and foundational academic subject. For America to succeed in this rapidly changing world, we need strong leaders from all backgrounds who can think critically about technology and understand how they will make an impact with their skills. Our children should be equipped with the skills for the jobs of tomorrow. But we need to make sure that our current education system is preparing them enough for the workforce.