Computer science courses are more popular than ever in high schools — some even require the successful completion of the class to graduate.
Computer science courses were once thought of as something students sign up for in college, but the importance of technical literacy and coding has caused a push for these classes to be offered in high schools, middle schools, and even as part of some elementary school subjects. In his final State of the Union address at the start of 2016, President Barack Obama said that one of his priorities during his final year in office was “helping students learn to write computer code.” He added that we should build on recent progress by “offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on Day 1.”
However, is that more easily said than done?
Many promote the inclusion of computer science courses in schools — at all age levels — because careers in the field are growing exponentially. Just some of the possible jobs include computer programmer, systems analyst, network engineer, web developer, information systems manager, embedded systems programmer (for cell phones or robots), graphics animator, and game developer. However, others point out the challenges of the creating computer science courses. Read on to discover some of the pros and cons of teaching computer science in schools.
Challenges of Launching Computer Science Courses
It’s not cheap to supply an entire class of students with working computers. Even if a school does have enough computers to offer a course in computer science, many students many not have access to computers at home. This would make completing homework and applying their knowledge after the class is over difficult.
Introducing students to programming, coding, and a broad understanding of computing requires skilled instructors. However, computer science isn’t a specialization most teachers have, and those who have studied the subject in-depth can get paid much more outside the school system. This is a challenge that many areas have not yet overcome, but some think computer science courses should become part of teacher-training programs for aspiring teachers.
3. Battle Over “Screen Time”
Many parents and scientists agree that kids and teenagers are spending far too much time on the computer, their phones, and tablets. Some fear that computer science courses will add to students’ dependence on screens, even if the time is being spent productively.
Benefits of Computer Science Courses
Just 30,000 students took the Advanced Placement test in computer science in 2013, according to Education Week. Less than 20 percent of those test-takers were female, about eight percent were Hispanic, and less than 3 percent were African-American. If every high school offered computer science courses, more teens would be exposed to the industry and learn how to actually do it. Then more kinds of people may transition into a career in the field, which is currently lacking diversity.
2. Increase Earning Potential
On top of being a growing industry, those who do choose to pursue a career in computer science also have a higher earning potential. In fact, certified coders make 20 to 40 percent more than the median salaries in cities like New York and San Francisco. Studies have also shown that computer science is the only field in which the wage gap does not exist, meaning that women can earn as much as their male coworkers.
3. Expand Horizons
Computer science differs from almost every other subject in high school. It involves science and math, but it’s hands on in a way that many students find intriguing. It also gives those interested in the subject an advantage before heading off to college.
While there are lots of challenges in launching computer science courses, many feel this will become an important part of the education spectrum in coming years. Check out free online coding classes to help you get ready for the growing demand.