In our quest to introduce computer science and technological literacy education in primary school, we often hear the same excuse as to why this is difficult to impossible: teachers already have enough on their plate. Introducing a new subject will overwhelm them, causing their overall teaching to decline in quality.
So many countries find themselves in the same position: we know that we need to prepare children to function in a world filled with technology but our school systems aren’t doing this. We know that children need to acquire computational thinking skills (the ability to solve problems and create solutions using computers), but our school systems aren’t helping them develop these skills.
NewTechKids believes that the optimal solution is for all primary school teachers to be trained to teach computer science and technological literacy as part of formal primary school curricula.
Until this is possible, we recommend a system in which schools hire specialist computer science teachers to teach and train their peers. These teachers would only teach computer science and be experts in using teaching tools (programming, robotics) which support this subject. This model has been adopted by countries such as Finland, where Dr. Marja-Ilona Koski, our Co-founder, received her teaching degree and Master’s in Computer Science and taught computer science in a primary school.
Specialist computer science teachers can both speed up the introduction of computer science education and help schools strengthen their focus on 21st century skills development.
But where do we source these teachers?
This raises the question of teacher training which is one of the biggest barriers. Thankfully, we’re seeing many players tackling this issue. Global industry organisations such as the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) are focusing on teacher training. Technology companies such as Google are supporting teacher training initiatives such as DigiLeerKracht in the Netherlands. NewTechKids itself has developed teacher training programs which integrate our lessons and teaching materials.
Here are some of our recommendations to accelerate the teaching of computer science and technological literacy in primary school:
- Creation of specialty programs focused on training specialist primary school computer science teachers (stand-alone programs). Including pedagogy, didactics, teaching approaches and classroom management strategies.
- Integration of computer science and technological literacy training in general teacher training programs for primary school teachers.
- Creation of government subsidies to establish specialty programs for computer science teachers.
- Increased funding for academic research investigating strategies to increase the number of computer science teachers and encourage existing primary school teachers to receive training in computer science education. Research should focus on introducing encouraging teachers to adopt a growth mindset needed to master new subjects, new ways of teaching and continuous professional development. Funding should come from both the public and private sectors.