Technology

Compulsory Computer Science in Schools? Germany's Considering It

By / Sep 11, 2015 (Photodisc/Thinkstock)

One of the country’s leading political parties recently recommended that computer science be made a required part of the education curriculum—a policy that trade groups in Germany say they’d welcome.

With computers such a basic part of our lives these days, it’s surprising that information technology hasn’t become more of a fundamental part of school curriculums.

In Germany, however, it looks like that might happen soon. A mandatory computer science track has the support of the country’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), which recommended the requirement at a parliamentary meeting last week.

“Our education system needs to keep pace with digital transformation, so that people young and old can independently and confidently take part in the digital society,” SPD’s deputy leader, Sören Bartol, said, according to a translation of a Heise Online article [in German].

If SPD gets its way, key trade groups in Germany would welcome the change. Bitkom President Thorsten Dirks, for example, suggested in comments to ZDNet that “IT skills are now as important as the basics.”

“Schools must teach about media literacy beyond the classroom and give students a firm grasp of IT technologies. For this, we need compulsory computer science lessons—in all provinces,” Dirks said.

The German Informatics Society (GI), meanwhile, has long supported compulsory computer science classes, well before the SPD’s policy proposal.

“Children should not only play with digital products but also get a basic understanding of their functioning while at school,” GI President Peter Liggesmeyer said, according to ZDNet. “Programming also teaches essential skills such as attention, planning, and reasoning, which are conducive to children’s development.”

Such a strategy has been pitched before in other countries. In January, for example, Microsoft’s Claire Tutill suggested that New Zealand should consider requiring computer science education in the schools.

In the United States, these arguments haven’t yet led to a significant increase in computer science offerings in K-12 schools. Not that groups in the U.S. aren’t working on it—the nonprofit Code.org is a leading advocate for computer science education.

“Ninety percent of schools just don’t even teach it. So if you’re a parent and your school doesn’t even offer this class, your kids aren’t going to have the preparation they need for the 21st century,” Code.org cofounder Hadi Partovi told NPR last year. “Just like we teach how electricity works and biology basics, they should also know how the internet works and how apps work. Schools need to add this to the curriculum.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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