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Computer science should be taught as basic skill in US: Barack Obama

PTI 31 Jan 2016, 7:46:42 IST

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama today emphasised on the need for teaching computer science as a basic skill to all children in the US and asked Congress to provide funding to help students especially girls and minorities prepare for jobs in a changing economy.

"In the new economy, computer science isn't an optional skill. It's a basic skill, right along with the three R's," Obama said in his weekly address to the nation in which he discussed his plan to give all students across the the country the chance to learn computer science in school.

The three R's refers to the foundations of a basic skills-oriented education programme within schools: reading, writing and arithmetic.

Obama said that only about one-quarter of K-12 schools offer computer science instruction even as most parents want their children to develop analytical and coding skills. 

"Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children's schools. Yet right now, only about a quarter of our K through 12 schools offer computer science. Twenty-two states don't even allow it to count toward a diploma," he said.

Noting that the American economy is rapidly shifting, and that educators and business leaders are increasingly recognising that computer science is a 'new basic' skill necessary for economic opportunity, Obama in his address talked about his Computer Science for all students.

According to a White House fact sheet, access to computer science education is limited and wide disparities exist even for those who do have access to these courses.

For example, in the fewer than 15 per cent of all high schools that offered any advanced placement CS courses in 2015, only 22 per cent of those who took the exam were girls, and only 13 per cent were African-American or Latino students.

The White House said, providing access to computer science is a critical step for ensuring that US nation remains competitive in the global economy and strengthens its cyber security. 

Last year, there were over 600,000 tech jobs open across the United States, and by 2018, 51 per cent of all STEM jobs (those requiring a science, technology, engineering, or math-related degree) are projected to be in CS-related fields.

The Federal government alone needs an additional 10,000 IT and cybersecurity professionals, and the private sector needs many more. 

The CS is not only important for the tech sector, but also for a growing number of industries, including transportation, healthcare, education, and financial services, that are using software to transform their products and services.

In fact, more than two-thirds of all tech jobs are outside the tech sector, it said.