The need for new approaches to computer science curriculum for K-12 education
Many school systems have added computer science lessons in recent years. In this time, school systems around the globe have found opportunities for improvement.
One opportunity is in providing equitable access. Despite introducing computer science curricula, many schools find a lack of equity within their own systems.
- Some systems are ill-equipped to institute all parts of their curricula.
- Other systems limit their offerings to certain ages or only as optional courses.
Additionally, research finds that fewer girls enroll in computer science courses than boys. The Royal Society found that only 11% of learners chose to study computer science in secondary school. Only one in five of those learners were female. Similarly, in the United States, the National Science Foundation notes that girls and boys take similar levels of computer science in general secondary education. However, advanced programs have significantly fewer girls. Only 23% of learners in advanced programs are female and only 18% in bachelor CS degree programs are women.
Educational institutions also want to ensure all learners, regardless of socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, or special learning needs, take computing courses that are appropriate for their needs and abilities.
Countries/regions have found they need to provide support for educators to enable them to feel confident to teach complex computer science concepts. Research finds that 44% of educators in England only felt comfortable teaching the lowest levels of the curriculum. They didn't believe they had adequate skills in computer science to teach the advanced topics. Studies found schools don’t frequently recruit computer science graduates to the teaching profession. When computer science professionals do become educators, they often lack the skills to teach the content they’ve used throughout their careers.
Furthermore, research in New Zealand indicates that computer science is like learning a second language. Computer science concepts are more challenging for older learners if they’re learning the concept for the first time. Therefore, it’s necessary to introduce computer science concepts at an earlier age and then embed and build upon the concepts progressively.
In short, although many educational systems want a computer science curriculum that benefits all, educational institutions currently have little shared understanding about:
- What concepts learners need to grasp at which age
- How to gradually increase their mastery of computer science content, skills, and mindset through their school careers.
- What has been your experience with computer science education for your learners? Do you identify opportunities for improvement? If so, where?