Ireland can learn from other countries on introduction of computer science as Leaving Cert subject – NCCA report

Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Education

- Report positive on girls’ performance in computer science but stresses need to increase participation

Ireland can learn from other developed countries in the development of a computer science course at Leaving Certificate level, according to a new report led by a team of researchers at the University of Limerick.  The report¹, commissioned by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) aims to advise on the best methods for implementing a course for upper second-level students.

The report, which was conducted by researchers from Lero (The Irish Software Research Centre), the National Centre for STEM Education at the School of Education in the University of Limerick and the Third Level Computing Forum, examined the experience of those implementing computer science courses in England, Scotland, New Zealand, Ontario and Israel.

Welcoming the report, Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Education, who recently announced the target of introducing computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject in 2018, said, “The value of computer science is much greater than the subject itself. Taught well, it educates students in problem solving, innovation and creativity. It also boosts career opportunities as students with an understanding of computer science are required across a diverse range of industries.”

“Ireland is well positioned to learn from the international experience and developments detailed in this report,” commented John Hammond, Acting CEO of the NCCA. “The renewed and growing appreciation of the importance of computer science programmes internationally, particularly at upper secondary level, points to now being an opportune time to introduce computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject.”

“Our analysis of computer science teaching in other countries threw up major challenges for example, in low participation rates especially amongst girls,” added Clare McInerney, education and outreach manager, Lero, University of Limerick.

“However, an interesting finding from other jurisdictions indicates that when girls participate in computer science courses, they tend on average to achieve better grades than their male counterparts.  In this regard, we can learn a lot from Israel where female participation is 40%.”

The preliminary report makes a number of recommendations designed to facilitate the introduction of a computer science course for Leaving Cert. The report also stresses the importance of teacher professional development in order to ensure the adoption, implementation and sustainability of a computer science curriculum.

1 “Report on the Provision of Courses in Computer Science in Upper Second Level Education Internationally”