Google gets it right: Teach computer science in schools

Google Australia’s submission on a proposed new digital technologies curriculum in our schools is spot-on.

I give up several hours of my week teaching programming and robotics to primary and high school kids just because the current curriculum doesn’t teach kids to be creators instead of consumers in our modern world. Given that, it should come as no surprise that I broke out in a smile upon reading what Google had to say. I’m not always Google’s greatest fan, but there are many times when they simply get things right and see what’s happening in the world with a clarity of vision lacking in both companies and government.

I only wish that there was more emphasis on teaching computer science just to give kids control over their world, rather than on creating computer scientists because that’s where the money is. But, hey, you have to start somewhere and following the money is usually good tactics.

Here’s some of what they had to say:

Digital technology and computer science have changed Australia in many ways in the last decade, and these changes will doubtless continue into the future. But as these technologies become more and more integrated into our lives, we must ask ourselves: do we wish to be a nation of creators of technology— or just consumers? We’re already among the world’s heaviest users of tablet devices and smartphones—but knowing how to play games on a tablet is not the same thing as knowing how to create them. One costs money; one generates money. Shifting our focus as a nation from the consumption of technology, to the creation of technology, will help us compete in an increasingly global and connected world.

The opportunities for our children are enormous. The young people who grow up with this new curriculum—our first ‘innovation generation’—will have the some of the world’s most sought-after and highly-valued skills. Globally, the demand for computer science and computational thinking skills only continues to accelerate. The technology sector worldwide holds huge potential for the creation of high-value jobs and wealth; the tech startup sector alone in Australia has the capacity to contribute $109 billion directly to GDP and create 540,000 new jobs by 2033. A highly-skilled workforce is the key to unlocking this value.

In Google’s experience, an introduction to computational thinking in early years provides the strongest possible pathway for students to engage with and excel in computer science, and benefit from the careers it enables. Yet today, Australian students with tertiary Computer Science skills are falling in number and make up just two percent of the total of domestic graduates.

That’s why we’re so heartened to see this proposed new curriculum. Successfully implemented in schools across the nation, and taught by passionate teachers, we believe it will be an important first step in preparing students to become the creators and innovators of the future.

In addition to the specific curriculum feedback we’ve included in our submission, we also recommend enhancing the exposure of Australian students to more computational thinking and computer science by:

  • Making Digital Technologies a required subject from Foundation to year 10.
  • Making Digital Technologies a stand-alone learning area to increase its visibility and awareness of the economic and job opportunities for people who ultimately pursue a career in the field.
  • Ensuring Digital Technologies provides instruction in at least one general programming language.

One thought on “Google gets it right: Teach computer science in schools

  • December 13, 2013 at 5:59 pm
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    How do I find someone who can teach my kids, when their school doesn’t offer computer science as a subject?

    Reply

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