Girls outperform boys when computer science arrives in schools
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Girls outperform boys when computer science is on curriculum

21 Feb 2017

International evidence confirms girls get better grades than boys when computer science is on the school curriculum.

Ireland needs to learn from other developed countries when it comes to introducing computer science as a subject and encouraging girls to participate in courses.

The preliminary report commissioned by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) aims to advise on the best methods for implementing a course for upper second-level students.

Conducted by Lero researchers, it stresses the importance of teacher professional development in order to ensure the adoption and sustainability of such a curriculum.

‘So, if everyone is in agreement about the value and importance of the introduction of computer science to Irish schools, the only question remaining is when?’

The report examined the experience of those implementing computer science courses in England, Scotland, New Zealand, Ontario and Israel.

Computer science meets a need in Irish education system

One of the biggest problems facing the tech industry is low female participation. This stems from choices made in schools where gender stereotyping pushes girls away from science and maths-related courses.

However, if computer science is introduced, this could change. Not only that, but international evidence confirms that girls outperform boys when it comes to grades.

“Our analysis of computer science teaching in other countries threw up major challenges for example, in low participation rates especially amongst girls,” said Clare McInerney, education and outreach manager, Lero, University of Limerick.

“However, an interesting finding from other jurisdictions indicates that when girls participate in computer science courses, they tend on average to achieve better grades than their male counterparts.

“In this regard, we can learn a lot from Israel, where female participation is 40pc,” said McInerney.

The publication of the report by the NCCA is a strident step closer to the long overdue introduction of the subject at secondary level in Irish schools.

Education Minister Richard Bruton, TD, said the subject holds the keys to a broad range of careers in the 21st century.

“The value of computer science is much greater than the subject itself,” Bruton said.

“Taught well, it educates students in problem solving, innovation and creativity. It also boosts career opportunities, as students with an understanding of computer science are required across a diverse range of industries.”

Crucially, the report indicated that the introduction of computer science meets a need that currently exists in the Irish education system. This is particularly true in the context of a national and international debate on reinforcing computational thinking and problem-solving skills through education.

“The renewed and growing appreciation of the importance of computer science programmes internationally, particularly at upper secondary level, points to now being an opportune time to introduce computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject,” said John Hammond, acting CEO of the NCCA.

So, if everyone is in agreement about the value and importance of the introduction of computer science to Irish schools, the only question remaining is when?

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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