On January 7, 2016, a major announcement was made in the U.S. Leading computer science experts and organisations are co-developing a framework to identify key computer science concepts and practices that all primary and secondary school students should learn.

This comes after President Obama signed “Every Student Succeeds”, a new U.S. education law, in early December 2015 which recognizes computer science as a ‘critical academic field’. Combined with the STEM Act of 2015, this new law will make federal funding available to introduce and expand computer science in schools and make training and professional development available for teachers.

According to a blog post published by code.org, “This law explicitly recognizes computer science as a critical academic field, naming computer science among the list of “well-rounded education” subjects. This definition will impact Federal law that affects curriculum and professional development for schools and teachers.”

The U.S. is not the only country integrating programming and computer science into its education system. 2016 promises to be an important year during which many countries will get serious about computer science and programming education, starting as early as primary school.

Why? As many have pointed out, technological literacy is becoming as important as the ability to read, write and perform math calculations. Technology is ubiquitous and set to become even more pervasive in the future. Technology education prepares kids to think like technologists, understand the world they live in, and become technology creators and inventors, not just passive consumers of technology. Computer science and programming education also provide education and career options and can help address IT talent shortages in the workforce.

United States

The U.S. is moving aggressively to introduce computer science and programming as mandatory subjects in its schools. In 2014, approximately 30 school districts in the U.S. added coding classes in primary and high school. The San Francisco Unified School Board plans to begin implementing computer sciences for students beginning in pre-school in the 2016-2017 school year. In September 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a 10-year deadline in NYC to offer computer science education to all students, beginning in primary school. But implementation remains patchy as education is decided at state and local levels, not at the federal level.

Europe

In Europe, twelve countries have already made computer science a mandatory subject in either primary and/or secondary schools: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and the UK (England).

Since September 2014, all primary and secondary school students in the UK have taken mandatory computer science classes. In Fall 2015, the BBC gave one million free Micro Bits, a mini-computer similar to Raspberry Pi, to all 11-year olds starting secondary school. It also scheduled a season of coding-related programming and activities.

Seven additional countries, including Finland in 2016, are planning to integrate programming and computer science into their school curricula.

The Netherlands

To understand what is happening in the Netherlands, NewTechKids reached out to an official from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. He informed us that Dutch schools are required to teach ‘World Orientation’ which includes the subjects of ‘nature and technology’ under which programming and computer science fall. He stated that it is up to Dutch schools themselves to determine the curriculum and how to teach these courses.

One of the most important initiatives around technology education is the National Technology Pact, an initiative aimed at increasing the amount of graduates in technology fields in the Netherlands. The group supporting the National Technology Pact includes representatives from educational institutes, employers, workers, young people, the Dutch top sectors, and regional and central governments.

The group behind the National Technology Pact has recommended that ”By 2020, all 7,000 primary schools in the Netherlands will have science and technology on their curricula.” It’s a praiseworthy goal but only a recommendation and not specific to computer science and programming.

There’s a lot of work to be done around the world. So 2016 promises to be a busy one for NewTechKids. Onwards and upwards!

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