Should Computer Science Count as a Foreign Language? Georgia Says Yes.

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One state has figured out an innovative way to boost interest in computer science courses.

High school enrollments in computer science are up 50 percent since 2014 in Georgia, primarily due to an amended admission requirement by the University System of Georgia.

In 2015, the Georgia Board of Regents altered its admission requirements making them more computer science-friendly. Previously, students needed to have completed two years of the same foreign language to apply for admission to the university system. The requirement still exists, but computer science now counts as a foreign language.

Michael Reilly, a technology teacher at the Center for Digital Technology at Lanier High School in Sugar Hill, Georgia, helped push for the change. As a former developer himself, he wondered what it would take to get students to pursue courses that would lead to jobs.

“That’s how this really came about. Kids were required to take two years at least of foreign language that frankly most people don’t use after they’re done,” Reilly told WABE. “This is the highest demanding career there is right now, and there’s no room in a kid’s schedule to take it.”

While the enrollment records have amassed praise, the new policy has also garnered pushback.

Critics argue that this shift limits where students can apply to college. Out-of-state schools, along with private colleges and universities in Georgia, will not recognize computer science as a foreign language.

NACAC member Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admission at Georgia Institute of Technology, told Inside Higher Ed that he likes the increased focus on computer science, but doesn’t see it as an either/or scenario between computer science and foreign languages.

Georgia Tech is “looking for students who demonstrate that international vision and interest,” Clark said. “We are intent upon enrolling students who in high school chose to seek out that global perspective.”

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org

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