Should computer science be a compulsory subject in New Zealand schools?
Computer science. Most of us don't know what it really entails. What is computer science? How is it taught? How is it used in real life? Quite often it is seen as intimidating, an item for the 'too hard basket'. Because of this most current students, and even more adults, don't know the first thing about computer science and are afraid to even try it.
But in our world of rapidly advancing technology, an understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly necessary. Everything around us has somehow been impacted by computer science and code. Want to start your own business? You need to set up and maintain a website. Want to create an app? You need to code. Want to work in agriculture, manufacturing or any other field? Computer skills are a must. Technology is in every aspect of our lives and it will only become more so in future years. We depend on technology. And yet, most of us are unable to write a simple program to calculate how much we spend on our grocery shopping every year.
There are countless benefits to learning computer science. On a personal development level, computer science is constantly evolving and changing so students are taught important skills of adaptability which come in handy in every aspect of life. On an employment level, university graduates with a computer science degree are among the highest paid in their first job. According to CareerBuilder.com, three of the four highest paying occupations from 2013 to 2017 are computer systems analyst, network and computer systems administrator, and software developer. Furthermore, according to Glass Door, 22 of the 50 best companies to work for worldwide are tech companies. There are endless opportunities within these industries to progress and develop. Check out the graph below which shows that in the next 5 years, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs available, with not enough people to fill these jobs. This is becoming even more important in today's ultra-competitive job market.
Computer science is a relatively new subject compared to the likes of English, maths and chemistry. Those high up in the schooling hierarchy are apprehensive to substitute computer science for a subject that has existed for a long time. However, there is a disconnect between what is being taught in schools, and what is going to be needed by students when they venture into the world of employment. The next generation of students are going to be ill-equipped for what any future job will require them to do.
How do we overcome this? The initial solution is to introduce compulsory computer science classes in New Zealand schools to teach students the basics of computer science, coding and programming. The drawback to this is that it would be very costly to implement. And it would be difficult to find enough qualified instructors willing to take on the job. Therefore, it is more practical and efficient to look towards online resources.
Because of computer science and the Internet revolution, there are now a multitude of resources online which teach computer science, such as Code.org, Treehouse and CodeAcademy.com. Many of these websites are free. The website takes care of everything, so an instructor with programming experience is not necessary. The teacher simply needs to supervise students to make sure they are physically doing the required work. These resources provide a fun and engaging way to get students into coding, enabling the next generation of programmers to take the reins.
Do you think online resources to teach coding should be implemented in New Zealand schools? Or would it be more meaningful to students to be taught by a physical computer science instructor? Or do you think it is not necessary to teach computer science in schools? We'd love to hear your opinion on this topic, so leave a comment below and get involved in the discussion!