The buzz word in education these days is STEM, the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Across the United States, educators are stressing the importance of STEM and states are launching huge STEM initiatives. Most of these efforts emphasize science, engineering or math, but few emphasize the powerful “T,” especially as it applies to the technology of computer science.
Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 5-11), is an effort to build awareness of the critical role computing plays in every aspect of society and to shine a light on the alarming decline in the number of computer science graduates in America.
SAS CEO, Dr. Jim Goodnight, frequently expresses his concern about how today’s students are lagging behind their international counterparts, particularly in the STEM fields. Computer science courses foster the skills that are needed to power a knowledge economy. Unfortunately, while many American students lack interest in the STEM skills, students in India, China, and the rest of Asia are excelling. It is very clear that the jobs requiring computer science knowledge will go to where the talent is located, so in the future, more and more of our jobs associated with innovation and creativity will be moving out of the U.S. Computer science is so often the gateway to innovation, but our current approach in K-12 does not give it the emphasis it deserves. In our education system, computer science courses are offered as “electives” and are not included in the core curriculum. The Association for Computing Machinery and the Computer Science Teachers Association have created nationally recognized computer science education standards, yet their adoption across the United States is scattered at best. Amazingly, no states require a computer science course for graduation despite the demand for computer proficiency in higher education.
Why must computer science courses continue to be an afterthought, rather than a requirement? There is nothing “elective” about these skills in today’s workforce, especially within the STEM fields. The role of corporate America is clear. We must remember the powerful “T” and encourage schools to promote computer science as an essential part of the STEM curriculum.
In an effort to lead by example, SAS recently joined the national STEM initiatives Change the Equation and Computing in the Core. Through such partnerships and efforts such as SAS Programming for High School, the North Carolina 1:1 Learning Technology Initiative and SAS Curriculum Pathways, SAS remains committed to initiatives that will equip our students with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy.