California strongly backs expanded science and computer education in schools
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California strongly backs expanded science and computer education in schools

California strongly backs expanded science and computer education in schools

Science and computer education is becoming increasingly important in our ever-changing high-tech world. As the science and technology sectors advance, so does the need for young people to be engaged and involved in the subjects at school.

A poll by Berkeley IGS/EdSource, which surveyed 1,200 registered voters in California, found that a large proportion (87 percent) support the notion of putting “greater emphasis on integrating science as part of the entire public school curriculum.”

This will be imposed from kindergarten all the way through to grade 12.

“Computer science is now seen as a new foundational course for a well-rounded K-12 education,” said Trish Williams, member of the California State Board of Education.

“Today’s students need to understand the digital world they live in, just as they take science to understand the natural world and take history and social studies to understand the cultural and political world.”

Despite the majority of voters saying they hadn’t heard of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – the new science standards adopted by the state in 2013 – 68 percent supported the movement once it was explained to them. Only 2 percent of voters strongly opposed the new standards.

As the NGSS were the first major adjustment to the science education of California K-12 students since 1998, the need to update and modernise the children’s education was long overdue.

The NGSS place more focus on critical thinking and the application of knowledge over just memorization. It encourages “hands-on learning.”

“It is great news that 68 percent of poll respondents favour the approach the NGSS take to teaching and learning, so that students understand how scientific concepts fit together and are applied in today’s world,” said Williams.

“California is seen as a national leader on the new science standards,” she claimed.

The state is in the process of developing an online standardised assessment, the California Science Test (CAST), in the hopes of monitoring how well students are adapting to the new standards. The test was piloted last spring with the full test to be taken in the spring of 2019.

“We need to do a better job of reaching out to the community,” claimed Kathy DiRanna, director of the K-12 Alliance at WestEd. “I do think people need to know what’s happening in the schools with science education. Science is core to everything, it’s life.”

Computer science and coding also proved popular with respondents of the Berkeley IGS/EdSource survey, with 85 percent saying they think it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” for schools to offer courses on these topics.

The state of California is currently developing new K-12 computer science standards based on the national framework. They will be adopted statewide in 2018.

“Computer science is a great career choice, but even if a student wants to pursue something else – become a doctor, an architect, a pharmacist – computer science provides transferable, 21st-century skills,” said Jared Amalong, a computer science coordinator for Sacramento County Office of Education.

“I think the survey shows people understand that.” 

Stephen Callahan, a STEM coordinator for the San Joaquin County Office of Education, said he is “not surprised at all” by the response to the survey.

“California is a very forward-thinking state, and parents know these are the skills of the future; the jobs of the future,” he said.

“This is an exciting time. This is a new science that we’re putting in the hands of the next generation.”

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