Schools need better computer science education, group says

An organization called Code NL says kids need better access to computer programming education in Newfoundland and Labrador.
James Flynn, founder of Code NL, a group dedicated to improving coding education in the province, says more people in Newfoundland and Labrador would be interesting on computer sciences if better programs were available. (Geoff Bartlett/CBC)

A local organization says kids need better access to computer science education in Newfoundland and Labrador.

James Flynn, founder of Code NL, a group dedicated to improving computer programming education in the province, says the current curriculum is not good enough.

"The courses now only offer an overview of coding," he said.

There are only a couple of computer science courses offered in the province and they are not mandatory. The courses are not offered in all high schools, and most of the schools offering them are in the metro region.

Flynn said these courses are a laughingstock among students.

"The course where you learn HTML, it's basically considered a bird course," he said.

"People don't take it because they want to learn computer science, they take it because they want to do nothing in class."

N.L. behind the pack

According to Flynn, Newfoundland and Labrador lags behind other provinces, such as Ontario, when it comes to computer sciences.

If I had been exposed to computer science earlier I certainly would have pursued that as a major in university.

Flynn attends the University of Toronto, and says that he felt severely disadvantaged next to his Ontario classmates.

"When I entered into the computer science course in first year, I was totally out of my league.," he said.

Many jobs, few students

According to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, there is a high demand for people who know how to code and by 2020, there will be an estimated 1.4 million computer-related job openings.

Yet, Flynn said few students in Newfoundland and Labrador choose to pursue computer science.

Only 22 students graduated Memorial University with a computer science degree in 2014. Flynn said these numbers are low for a reason.

"I'm studying economics right now, but I feel that if I had been exposed to computer science earlier I certainly would have pursued that as a major in university," he said.

According to Flynn, teaching kids to code would have economic benefits for the province.

"Our province right now as a 13.9 per cent unemployment rate," he said.

"If we give people the training in computer science skills not only can we give people great jobs, but we can also move away from our reliance on nonrenewable natural resources."

Code NL holds a regular speakers series and is currently lobbying government improvements for the province's computer sciences programs.

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