Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman
December 21, 2009
Less young people appear to be interested in computer science, so industry leaders and policymakers are trying to raise more awareness about the importance of computer careers.
The Washington Post reports that according to a survey by the Computer Science Teachers Association, the subject's popularity appears to be waning: This year, the number of schools offering introductory courses in computer science dropped from 78 to 65 percent. In addition, last spring the College Board canceled its more rigorous AP computer science AB class because of declining enrollment.
The lack of technological training is alarming to Chris Stephenson, executive director of the Computer Science Teachers Association. "If you look at history," he explained to the Post, "the nations with economic superiority are building the tools the rest of the world is using."
The image of computer science is part of the problem, reports The New York Times. "We need to gain an understanding in the population that education in computer science is both extraordinarily important and extraordinarily interesting," said Alfred Spector, vice president for research and special initiatives at Google, who was quoted by the Times. "The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality."
Educators and technologists say that computer science education in high schools also must improve. To that end, National Computer Science Education Week took place beginning December 6, which was marked by school and online events.
At Kenmoor Middle School in Landover, Maryland, for example, about 200 students in grades five through 12 gathered from across the region on December 12 for a Video Game Technology Conference. The Gazette reports that the event was held to demonstrate how proficiency in video games could lead to lucrative careers.
"The important thing is for them to start planning their future now," noted Jay Crossler, a software engineer for the MITRE Corp., a Virginia-based systems and information technology company. He was quoted as saying in the Gazette that students should attend college and study computer science.
Cy Khormaee, an academic relations manager with Microsoft, encouraged students to start creating games by utilizing Web sites that provide free instruction and software. "We want kids to know there are no barriers to them, especially with regards to software and gaming technology," he told the Gazette. "Gaming is something that's at their fingertips."
But computer science expertise is by no means limited to video games. Robert Reich, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, pointed out in the Times that most new jobs in the modern economy will involve applying computing and technology-influenced skills to every industry, including energy and healthcare. For example, the Obama administration's plan to computerize health records could create more than 200,000 jobs.
"These are jobs for what I think of as digital technicians," Reich was quoted as saying in the Times. "And they are at the core of the new middle-wage middle class."