In December 2016, the European Union published the report “Developing Computational Thinking in Compulsory Education: Implications for policy and practice”.

Click here for a definition of computational thinking and how it helps students solve problems, understand the world around them and become inventors.

The report is useful to compare the EU’s action to other places such as the United States which launched the ‘Computer Science for All’ initiative which will bring computer science education to all students in America, beginning in primary school. The initiative focuses on significantly increasing the teaching of computer science, namely by developing teaching materials, providing teacher training and building effective regional partnerships.

(NewTechKids was pleasantly surprised to learn that we were listed as a selected literature reference.)

Some highlights:

“Thirteen countries in Europe and beyond [Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Turkey] aim to develop students’ logical thinking skills and problem-solving skills through CT. Others, such as Finland and Portugal, also set quite specific goals, like raising student achievement and boosting interest in mathematics.”

“Eleven countries in Europe and beyond [Denmark, France, Finland, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Poland, Turkey, England, Scotland] have recently concluded a reform process that includes CT and related concepts.

Seven others [Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Wales] are currently planning to introduce CT into compulsory education.”

“…seven other countries [Austria, Portugal, Cyprus, Israel, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovak Republic] are integrating CT by building on their long-standing tradition in Computer Science (CS) education, mainly in upper secondary schools. Some of these are expanding CS education to include the lower secondary and primary levels.”

“In the Netherlands, a wide-scale debate is presently underway about including CT in the Information literacy subject, which is already part of the core curricula [63, 64]. In 2012, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) published a report on Digital Literacy in Secondary Education containing a number of recommendations on digital literacy and CS. One of these suggestions is for CT to play a central role in a new digital literacy course and in a revised CS course. As Joke Voogt pointed out during the expert interviews for this study, the Netherlands currently has an optional subject in upper-secondary school called Informatics but this is not offered in lower-secondary and primary education. Dutch schools exercise a fair degree of autonomy and some have acted independently in this direction, particularly by introducing programming, including at primary level.”

Some comments from NewTechKids:

  • There are many reasons why increased attention is being paid to integrating computational thinking in compulsory education:
    * the need to improve technological literacy
    * the need to prepare kids to navigate the technology around them
    * improve a country’s economic development and boost its competitiveness
    * fill IT talent shortages (unfilled jobs)
  • Most countries integrate computational thinking at the secondary school level which we feel is too late. Computational thinking should be taught as soon as children start primary school and continue right through secondary school.
  • The roll-out of computational thinking, computer science and technological literacy across Europe is uneven, with countries such as the United Kingdom and Finland taking the most comprehensive actions to integrate computational thinking in compulsory education.
  • Europe is entering a critical period in which national education systems which adapt and innovate will create significant advantages  for their students (study, work, citizenship). The more that countries delay the introduction of computational thinking, computer science and technological literacy, the more they will lag behind, creating wide gaps in knowledge and skills between their citizens and those of other countries which focus on computational thinking. The digital divide will become the computational thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship divide.
  • Many education ministries, schools and teachers assume that including coding or programming classes in school curricula helps students develop computational thinking. This is not necessarily true. Often, these classes are taught by people who aren’t teachers and the teaching approaches used lack pedagogy, knowledge of the cognitive development of children, and professionally-developed curriculum and lesson plans.