Junior Cert cybersecurity course is rolling out to more Irish schools

24 Oct 2022

Image: © Drazen/Stock.adobe.com

The course was launched as a pilot programme last year with the aim of bringing cybersecurity education to secondary schools.

A pilot course to teach cybersecurity to Junior Certificate students is being extended to a larger group of schools.

The short course aims to help students understand key aspects of cybersecurity and see if a career in this field is suitable for them. It was launched last year in a select group of schools in Offaly, Galway, Kildare, Louth, Carlow and Cork.

The course takes a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing aspects of computer science, psychology, law, ethics, communications and crisis management.

It was a recommendation from Ireland’s National Cyber Security Strategy, with the aim of introducing a cybersecurity education in secondary schools.

The initiative was developed by educators and researchers from University College Dublin (UCD), with a steering group comprising members of the National Cyber Security Centre, the Computers in Education Society of Ireland, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, and Cyber Ireland.

The UCD team arranged webinars, developed units of learning to support teachers, created a website and organised a shared learning day event last May with teachers and pupils.

The pilot programme is now being extended by a further two years to refine the course materials, obtain feedback from a larger pool of participating schools and explore how to sustain the initiative in the future.

The programme extension follows an interim report, which provided guidance on how to sustain the initiative. The report was received by Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications Ossian Smyth TD.

Smyth met with working group chair Prof Joe Carthy and project implementation team head Dr Rachel Farrell of UCD to hear about the pilot implementation of the course.

“This short course is a fantastic opportunity for young people to learn about cybersecurity, particularly how to better protect their data, devices and ultimately themselves from malicious cyber activities,” Smyth said.

“The short course also facilities early pathways towards STEM-based career options, helping us to address the cybersecurity skills gap as we evolve towards a digital economy and society. I look forward to further updates on the implementation of this pilot.”

While a report last year estimated that Ireland needs 10,000 more cybersecurity professionals to meet rising demand, a recent follow-up suggested that the skills gap in this area has narrowed.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic