Irish coding star calls for computer science to be offered in more schools

29 Nov 2022

Aoibheann Mangan. Image: Mount Saint Michael Secondary School, Claremorris

Aoibheann Mangan said computer science needs to be a Leaving Cert subject option in all secondary schools as ‘the future of so many jobs rely on these skills’.

The Mayo secondary school of young coder, internet access campaigner and former European Digital Girl of the Year Aoibheann Mangan is bringing in computer science as a Leaving Cert subject.

Mount Saint Michael Secondary School in Claremorris, Co Mayo, officially launched its computer science programme last week in collaboration with St Colman’s College, Claremorris.

Mangan, a passionate coder, has been campaigning for years for better internet access opportunities for rural Ireland. Aged 11, she spoke at Silicon Republic’s Inspirefest event about the poor broadband infrastructure in her home town.

At the time in 2018, she was already a rising star in the coding world and had been named European Digital Girl of the Year. She has long advocated for coding to be on school curricula in Ireland.

With the introduction of computer science as a Leaving Cert subject in her school, Mangan said it “feels great” being able to study something that motivates her.

“I know for me it’s not art or music or sport that I’m good at, it’s coding and computers,” she added.

“We are very lucky and, thanks to our schools’ boards of managements, Teen-Turn and our parents, we are studying computer science for the Leaving Certificate in 2024.”

Teen-Turn, the Irish charity helping girls get into STEM, is supporting the computer science students at Mount Saint Michael by providing online tuition once a week.

Computer science was introduced as a Leaving Cert subject in Ireland as part of a pilot programme in 2018. The initial roll-out included 40 secondary schools, with the first students sitting exams in 2020.

While the number of schools offering computer science has since grown, Mangan said there are still many students around the country who don’t have the opportunity to study the subject.

“Many who would love to and many I would say need to – those who want to go to college and study computer science or any other ICT or technology course.

“Computer science is a subject that needs to be offered in every single second-level school in Ireland, given that the future of so many jobs rely on these skills.”

Mangan’s campaigning has made an impression on Irish politicians in the past.

When he signed the National Broadband Plan contract in November 2019, then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reflected on her remarks at Inspirefest. She had told him that she had to complete school projects in the carpark of a local Tesco as that was the only place she could access Wi-Fi.

Mangan was also named ‘One to Watch’ at a London awards event for women in STEM in 2020.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic