A woman sitting down holding a laptop computer with three teenagers standing behind her in a group.
Dr Cornelia Connolly (seated) with Grace Rodrigues, Alicia Nwanna and Julia Tobolska, students of Dominican College, Taylors Hill, Galway. Image: Aengus McMahon

Lack of computer science teachers holding Irish students back, says report

27 Mar 2023

New research has found that as of August 2022, there were only 34 accredited computer science teachers in Ireland.

Ireland’s efforts to create a new generation with digital skills is stagnating due to the lack of computer science in schools, a new report has found.

The report is by University of Galway’s School of Education and was commissioned by Google. In general, the researchers involved in compiling the report found that there was a low level of understanding of the importance of computer science in schools. This ambivalence was across the board – among students, teachers and education stakeholders.

In focus groups with school leaders and teachers, the research revealed that a lack of qualified teachers was the number one barrier to making coding and computer science available at their school.

Only 15.6pc of schools offered computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject in 2022, or 114 out of 728 post-primary schools.

The number was similar for the Junior Certificate cycle, with 117 out of 728 post-primary offering coding.

The proportion of fully qualified computer science teachers is low, with only 34 fully accredited in August 2022.

The vast majority of school teachers said they were teaching computer science without Teaching Council accreditation to do so.

As well as highlighting these disparities in Irish digital skills education, the report’s authors made some recommendations for improving the scenario.

“We need to develop a shared understanding and strengthen the acceptance of computer science as a foundational competence for all, enabling young people to become active participants in a digital economy and society,” said Dr Cornelia Connolly, lecturer in University of Galway’s School of Education and lead author of the report.

She said that although the Irish education system has embraced computing in the curriculum at post-primary level, we “are a long way off making this important 21st century subject available to all students.”

Connolly added that it would be wrong to conflate smartphone skills with computer science skills, and that computer science education should be made available to young people at an earlier age.

“While young people are often assumed to be ‘digital natives’ who can pick up computer skills with ease, the research indicated this is not the case. Young people have a high level of access to phones and smart technology, yet teachers report that their technical use and understanding of computers is much lower. To address this, the report recommends that computing education needs to be introduced at an earlier age.”

Connolly spoke to SiliconRepublic.com about her research career in 2021.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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