6 barriers to computer science education for girls in Europe

Computer science is a crucial skill for young people, yet it is only taught as a required subject in 12 out of 37 European countries. This lack of access to computer science education is a significant loss of talent, diversity, and economic opportunity for minority groups, including women. In order to understand why the gender divide in computer science persists, a study was commissioned to examine the barriers impacting the participation of girls in computer science.

The study, based on interviews and surveys with over 3,000 students and education leaders across Europe, identified six key barriers. Firstly, computer science is often seen as an isolated subject rather than a skill to develop. However, when integrated with other subjects, 41% of girls express interest in studying computer science. This highlights the importance of presenting computer science as a versatile skill that can be applied in various fields.

Role models also play a significant role in encouraging girls to pursue computer science. However, it is not just about having more role models, but also about providing a diverse representation of relatable identities such as age, gender, sexual orientation, race, attainment, and ability throughout the education pipeline. This helps girls and young women envision themselves in the field and overcome stereotypes.

Teachers are another critical factor in engaging students in computer science. Unfortunately, many educators lack the necessary support, knowledge, resources, and time to effectively teach the subject. This is evident in the fact that approximately two thirds of European education systems at the lower secondary level employ teachers without specialties in computer science. Addressing this issue requires investing in teacher training and resources to ensure quality computer science education.

Another barrier is the disconnect between what students learn in school and how computer science is applicable in everyday life. Students often do not realize the practical uses of computer science in other subjects and their personal interests. To bridge this gap, it is essential to provide real-world examples and interdisciplinary projects that showcase the relevance of computer science.

Parental support is crucial for children’s success, but many parents struggle to understand computer science and feel confident discussing it with their children. Educating parents about the importance of computer science skills for their children’s future can help overcome this barrier and garner their support.

Finally, peer networks play a crucial role in building confidence and support for learning computer science, particularly for girls. Having more friends interested in computer science can boost girls’ confidence and encourage their participation. Creating opportunities for peer collaboration and support can help overcome this barrier.

Efforts have been made in partnership with organizations across Europe to address these barriers. Initiatives such as Code Plus in Ireland and parent outreach programs in Italy and the UK have been successful in encouraging girls to consider computer science careers and educating parents on the importance of computer science skills.

However, more needs to be done systematically to tackle these barriers. The report calls for action from teachers, parents, nonprofit leaders, policymakers, and all others involved in this field. It is important to provide equal opportunities for all students to pursue computer science education and support young women in becoming future tech creators and leaders.


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