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ITIF: computer science students in the U.S. aren't being taught correctly

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June 1, 2016

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) asserted today that computer science students in America aren't being taught properly, and that their classes are too limited in scope.

The ITIF added that its most recent study of curriculum in the United States has found that not enough schools are offering computer science classes, and those that do aren't going in-depth enough.

As a result, many universities are failing to produce the diverse, well-trained graduates that companies seek to hire, the think tank said.

"There is the possibility that overall interest in the field could again wane like it did in 2002 and 2003 following the burst of the .com tech bubble," the ITIF warns.

"To maintain the IT industry's current momentum, the perception of computer science needs to shift from its being considered a fringe, elective offering or a skills-based course designed to teach basic computer literacy or coding alone," it asserted.

The study also revealed that at the high school level, dedicated computer science classes are mostly limited to affluent schools, and when the courses are taught, girls and minority students are rarely enrolled.

The ITIF said that the limited reach of computer science classes is due to the subject being left out of many schools' STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematicomputer science) curriculum activities.

Rather, most schools are focusing on the core stem areas and leaving dedicated computer and IT classes out.

This also contributes to the lack of diversity in university programs, as students from less affluent high schools do not enter university having taken computer classes in high school.

Even when computer science is taught as its own subject, the ITIF says that the curriculum does not provide enough teaching of the engineering and basic technology itself, but instead focuses largely on coding.

As a result, students have little inclination to understand the systems they would be working on as IT professionals, and that is sad, said the ITIF.

"Unfortunately, curriculum and standards still focus on using, rather than understanding, technology," the ITIF asserted.

"As a matter of fact, only about 37.4 percent of states' computer science standards include a focus on various computing concepts, while about 73.2 percent of state' standards include a focus on computer skills," it added.

In addition to teaching computer science in more schools, the ITIF recommends that schools allow computer science to count toward graduation as a core science or mathematical computer science subject and seek to better train teachers to provide more technical lessons in their courses.

The group is also asking universities to provide better funding and assistance in computer science departments to help offset the higher costs those departments and students incur for training.

Source: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

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