Most smaller high schools, including the one I went to, have little to offer in the way of computer science and programming. The closest thing to programming my high school offered was an introduction to HTML. Why is this, and how can we fix education so there is a greater emphasis on computer science?
Before we begin to discuss the issues with high schools and programming, I’d like to know how many of you took (or were offered) a programming course in high school. And if there are circumstances surrounding your answer (for instance, if you were in high school in the 80’s or something like that) explain that in the comments section!
I’m excited to see how this poll turns out! The more data we can collect, the better the results. If you share this article with your friends, can get a better idea of the availability of programming courses in high school.
When I was in high school, just a couple years ago, I wanted to learn programming. Sure, I had tried to use free online resources to learn to code on my own, but I wanted the structure of a school course.
So when the next year rolled around, I tried to take a programming class. I was torn when I found out that my school only offered to teach HTML. To make matters worse, it was a split course. During the first half of the year, we learned how to use PowerPoint, and the second half we learned HTML.
I signed up for it anyway, had a good time, and learned a few things. But I am still disappointed that there were no opportunities to get into computer science before college. At least, no formal opportunities. There are a few good online resources, like Codecademy, but in my experience, structured, formal courses are better than these free resources.
Public education needs to realize that computer science is one of the most important fields of the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of software developer jobs will grow from 1,114,000 in 2014 to about 1,303,380.
As you can see from the graphic, the growth across all fields is projected to be only 7%, while the growth of jobs as a software developer is expected to be 17%! In other words, computer science is a field our high schools should be encouraging students to explore!
In my high school, we had to take:
- 4 years of English
- 3 years of Math
- 3 years of Science
- 3 years of History
- 2 years of Foreign Language
And then there were various electives, like band, choir, and a few rudimentary computer courses primarily covering Microsoft’s Office Suite. But about half the electives available were sports, including football, basketball, baseball, softball, track, golf, and weightlifting. No offense to the sporty readers, but these don’t provide a solid career path.* So why all the emphasis on sports?
Another option is getting schools to partner with companies to provide a learning service at no charge to the students. Microsoft has a partnership service called DreamSpark that is used by the University of Oklahoma, and I think it would be very cool to see opportunities like that used in high schools.
What do you think? If you have an opinion on the matter, leave a comment with your thoughts about introducing our teenagers to programming in school. I look forward to hearing about the options you had in high school, or what you think we can do to fix the lack of programming in public education!
* This may get a bit of criticism, because there are people who make a steady living doing things like sports medicine. Here, I was specifically referring to those attempting to make a solid career out of playing the sport itself. Once you’re playing the sport professionally, you can make a lot of money, but it is very hard to become a professional athlete.