Poll: Girls, Boys Have Unequal Access to Computer Science

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A Gallup survey commissioned by Google reveals that although 67% of parents think that Computer Science education should be a core class at schools, fewer than 8% of school administrators believe there’s high demand for Computer Science by parents.

The survey, “Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education,”  polled about 15,000 people including students, educators, principals and superintendents. Among the survey’s key findings is that Hispanic students tend to have less access to Internet and computers at home than their white or black peers, while female students get fewer CS learning opportunities than males.

Commenting on the disparity between what students and parents think about CS and what administrators consider to be true, Brandon Busteed, Gallup’s Executive Director of Education and Workforce Development, said:

“It’s just shocking how huge the disparity is between the demand that we’re seeing in this study and what’s actually happening in schools.”

District superintendents and principals say that the primary reason their schools do not offer CS classes is insufficient budget or that computer science is not a testing requirement.

Almost half of principals say that even though they offer CS courses, they do not include any programming/coding classes. The study also showed that Advanced Placement (AP) CS classes are limited in scope with only 2 in 10 principals reporting them as available at their schools.

Even if both students and parents value computer science education, that interest is not shared as strongly by teachers, principals and superintendents. As the survey reports, these:

“[A]re unlikely to say computer science education is a top priority for their school or district, and less than half say their school board thinks it is important to offer computer science education.

Low-income students and black students tend to have less access to computer science education at school and in cases where learning opportunities are available, the courses are often incomplete or lacking core elements, the poll reveals.

In terms of gender, girls are less likely to have access to CS classes than boys. Only 49% of the female students surveyed reported participation in computer science classes compared to 57% of male students.

The study reports that many schools are looking into expanding their CS learning opportunities in the near future and highlights the importance of offering access to high-quality computer science resources to students.

Hai Hong, Google’s K-12 outreach programs leader highlighted the importance of CS education, especially considering the expansion of the computer engineering job market:

“Giving students access to CS is the right thing to do,” he says. “It offers problem-solving skills and promotes creativity. It’s also in our long-term interest, since in 10 to 15 years these students will be our technologists.”

According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in five years, 1 million job placements in coding will be unfilled.