Minister for Education Richard Bruton has announced that second-level students will be able to study computer science, including coding, as a Leaving Certificate subject in three years’ time.
It is one of a number of recommendations made in a new report aimed at improving the teaching of STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths in primary and second-level schools. Minister Bruton stated that he had set 2019 as a target for the introduction of the new subject in schools.
The authors of the Government-commissioned report into the teaching of STEM subjects also say the quality of the education for these subjects is essential to Ireland’s ambitions. The report was commissioned three years ago and overseen by Dublin City University President Prof Brian MacCraith, he said current STEM performance in schools in Ireland is not good enough and significant change is needed if Ireland wishes to sustain its economic ambitions. The report makes almost 50 recommendations, 21 of which Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said he will prioritise. These include ensuring that all teachers of STEM subjects have specific qualifications in their subjects.
The report also recommends that a gender imbalance – which sees boys accounting for 76% of all Leaving Cert physics students – also be addressed and that computer science, including coding, be introduced as a Leaving Certificate subject.
The report also calls for revised curricula in STEM subjects, with a greater focus on inquiry-based learning.
It says ways should be found to recognise student participation in informal STEM events such as the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, and also calls for a greater use of technology to enhance learning.
According to ICS Foundation CEO Jim Friars, “STEM subjects provide hands-on opportunities for young people to learn about how computing and related technologies are shaping every area of life. The aim is to stimulate thinking around future opportunities for study and careers in technology. Research indicates that Ireland needs an additional 45,000 skilled new ICT professionals by 2018 to fuel our continuing growth. The current generation of children and teens are ‘digital natives’ but instead of just using technology it’s important for them, and their parents, to understand that careers in technology are creative, rewarding and enriching. We want young people and their parents to understand and be aware of the opportunities a career in technology can provide. They can then choose the right subjects and make college decisions on an informed basis around all that technology has to offer”.