Tuesday 12 December 2017

Girls' low uptake of computer science 'a major challenge'

Research found that girls are less likely to take up computer science compared to their male counterparts. Stock Image
Research found that girls are less likely to take up computer science compared to their male counterparts. Stock Image

Ryan Nugent

A massive gender gap in computer science participation at second level is seen as "a challenge" as the Department of Education looks to implement it into the Leaving Cert programme by 2018.

Research found that girls are less likely to take up the subject compared to their male counterparts.

However, when females do study the subject they tend to achieve better grades.

Advise

The report, conducted for the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA) by a team of researchers at the University of Limerick (UL), aims to advise on the best methods for implementation in Irish education.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said that the subject is becoming imperative for a number of different industries.

"The value of computer science is much greater than the subject itself," Mr Bruton said.

"Taught well, it educates students in problem solving, innovation and creativity.

"It also boosts career opportunities as students with an understanding of computer science are required across a diverse range of industries."

Within the report, there were comparisons made with a number of different countries including England, Israel and New Zealand.

In England, the study found that of the computer science participants during A-Level examinations, 90.2pc of them are males, with just 9.8pc being female.

Though this is a rise of more than 3.5pc since 2013.

However, the participation rate was far higher in Israel, where female students are thriving.

Education and outreach manager at Lero, UL, Clare McInerney, said there is food for thought in the Israel example.

"Our analysis of computer science teaching in other countries threw up major challenges, for example in low participation rates among girls," Ms McInerney said.

"However, an interesting finding from other jurisdictions indicates that when girls participate in computer science courses they tend on average to achieve better grades than their male counterparts."

Recommendation

"In this regard, we can learn a lot from Israel, where female participation is 40pc," she said.

A number of recommendations have been made in the preliminary report, one of which stresses the importance in the continued professional development of teachers in order to ensure that the implementation and sustainability of the course remains up to standard.

The report also suggests that in order for students to grasp the subject in time for the Leaving Cert cycle, computer science should be introduced to them early in secondary school.

Irish Independent

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