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Should computer science courses be made compulsory at university?

computer science courses
Computer science courses are in high demand globally. Source: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

At the start of this year, the trusted recruitment website LinkedIn released an insightful ranking listing the skills companies would need most throughout 2019.

Outlining that the top five hard skills companies need today are ‘Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Analytical Reasoning, People Management and UX Design’, IT-related talents appear to be rife with opportunity in today’s working world.

In contrast, The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2030, up to 375 million people could be displaced by automation. But at the same time, new jobs would be created, possibly surpassing the number displaced.

Do we all need knowledge of computer science if we are not just to survive, but thrive, amid the rapid change of digitalisation?

To truly equip students and prepare them for success in graduate life, there has been some debate as to whether universities should offer these courses alongside their degrees.

computer science courses

Do you think computer science should be compulsory? Source: Adrien Olichon/Unsplash

Bringing the debate to life, Robert Sedgewick, the William O. Baker ’39 Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, believes students should have at least one or two computer science courses available to them at university.

But whether or not they want to pursue these courses while studying their major is left to their discretion.

“Colleges and universities offer the opportunity for any student to take as many courses as they desire in math, history, English, psychology and almost any other discipline, taught by faculty members in that discipline. Students should have the same opportunity with computer science.

“Many students need computer science to prepare for success later on in the curriculum. Archaeologists write programmes to piece together fragments of ancient ruins. Economists apply deep learning models to financial data. Linguists write programmes to study statistical properties of literary works. Physicists study computational models of the universe to analyse its origins. Musicians work with synthesised sound…the list goes on and on,” he notes.

Illuminating the necessities of computer science and relating them to a range of careers, these additional courses may improve students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“Whatever major they might eventually choose, students nowadays know that computer science is pervasive and that they need to learn as much as they can about it. But unfortunately, opportunities to do so are limited for far too many students,” Sedgewick explains.

computer science courses

Source: Al Ghazali/Unsplash

A diverse and unifying subject, computer science is capable of attracting all types of students.

From computational big data analytics to digital literacy education, computer science isn’t just about programming languages and high-tech terminology.

So, perhaps it’s time for universities to ask themselves if tech workshops and courses should be made available for all students, or whether they should be required.

For Sedgewick, these courses should definitely be accessible, but not necessarily compulsory.

He advises that the first step for any college or university “Is to commit to providing access to at least a full year of computer science for every student. That is what their students want and need. Modern technology can help give it to them.”

Sedgewick believes that there is still time to boost students’ tech-based skills, and if universities pledge to provide access to computer science courses while studying at university, their students may enhance their preferred subject with extra know-how about thriving in future technological workplaces.

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