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Neal G. Moore
IU School of Informatics
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Last modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

IU Informatics dean leading national initiative on importance of computing education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 19, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A high-level committee of acclaimed computer scientists and educators -- chaired by Bobby Schnabel, dean of the Indiana University School of Informatics -- is delivering the message at federal and state levels that if the United States is to remain competitive in a global economy, computer science must be a critical component of U.S. education policy.

Convened by ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), the new Education Policy Committee is charged with developing initiatives aimed at shaping national education policies that impact on the computing field.

Robert B. Schnabel

Bobby Schnabel

Print-Quality Photo

"The IU School of Informatics is well-positioned to play a leading role in redefining modern, broad university-level education in computing fields, and is considered a national leader in this regard. From this perspective, it is fitting for me to play a role in the overall national discussion about computing education," Schnabel said.

The ACM announcement coincided with the newest report on how students around the world are performing in key subject areas. A 2006 Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) study reports that students can benefit significantly by expanded opportunities for quality computer science education.

"The industries that comprise the computing field are global, and the implications for national investment in computer science education on a country's competitive edge are significant," said Schnabel. "In the long run, national education policy that leads to a first-rate computing and information technology workforce may be the most significant factor in defining a country's ability to compete in a knowledge economy underpinned by IT."

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's PISA study measured performance in reading, mathematics and science for 15-year-old students in OECD countries. Schnabel pointed out that computer science education plays a vital role in preparing the workforce for needed 21st century skills, but it is often overlooked, particularly at the high school level.

"We need to show policy makers that using computing merely enables people to leverage existing innovation, whereas understanding computing allows people to create innovations that achieve breakthroughs," he said.

The Education Policy Committee's responsibilities for improving the quality of computing education in the U.S. include:

  • Review issues that impact science, math and computer science education in K-12 and higher education systems.
  • Determine if current policies are adequately serving the computing field and recommend improvements.
  • Comment on proposals before Congress that impact computing issues.
  • Educate policymakers on the role and importance of computing education.
  • Provide expertise on key computing and education issues to policymakers.

A primary goal of the committee is to ensure that computing and computer science are recognized in educational initiatives at all levels of the U.S. educational pipeline.

"Ideally, we want to see explicit discussion of 'computing' in the debates and conversation surrounding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. At a minimum, we want to ensure that computing has a voice in these debates, and that computing is an integral part of education programs," noted John R. White, chief executive officer of ACM.

The Education Policy Committee's first public appearance will be at the 2008 ACM SIGCSE Symposium on Computer Science Education, March 12-15 in Portland, Ore. The SIGCSE (Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education) program features Schnabel moderating a panel of EPC members entitled "An Open Dialogue on the State of Computer Science Education Policy." For more information, see http://www.cs.duke.edu/sigcse08.

ACM has additional education initiatives including the Computer Science Teachers Association, launched by ACM in 2005, to tackle serious challenges to computing in U.S. high schools and middle schools as well as ACM's participation in the National Center for Women and information Technology, which is working to increase the participation of women in IT in general and the participation of girls in K-12 computing in particular.

Additional information about ACM's Education Policy Committee is at http://www.acm.org/public-policy/education-policy-committee.