On Saturday, President Obama unveiled a plan to help students learn computer science.
Mr. Obama says he'll seek more than $4 billion from Congress to fund a new program called, "Computer Science For All." The plan aims to reboot computer science education in public schools to better prepare kids for a future workforce.
If funding is approved, the program would offer competitive grants to states and school districts with achievable plans on how to expand access to computer science and districts would need to describe computer science education plans that can be nationally replicated. Bonus points will be awarded for plans designed to attract more female and minority students.
The plan is poised to reform education and fills a growing skill gap in the US workforce.
"In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill, right along with the three 'Rs.' Nine out of 10 parents want it taught at their children’s schools," Obama said during his weekly address. “I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science, especially girls and minorities…”
In the weekly address, Obama also stated that only 25 percent of US K-12 schools offer computer science courses and 22 states do not allow computer science education to count toward a high school diploma.
There are also demographic challenges for attracting girls and minority students to computer science education, as USA Today points out. Last year, 15 percent of high schools offered Advanced Placement computer science courses, but of the students who took the AP test, only 13 percent were African-American or Hispanic. Less than 22 percent of the test takers were girls.
Starting this year, according to Obama, the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service will use existing resources to help start training teachers for various computer science programs.
Obama also said he will seek to pull together leaders from the public and private sectors to support the growing bipartisan efforts to train American youth in computer science.
Brad Smith, president of Microsoft and an early supporter of the Computer Science For All program, told reporters on a media call that computer science is an “economic and social imperative for the next generation of American students.”
Mr. Smith cited countries like China and Estonia as drastically expanding their computer science education programs in contrast to the slow pace in the US. Up to a million US jobs could be left unfilled at the end of the decade due to a lack of computer science education, according to the Washington Post.
"It's not just working with computers, but developing the computational thinking, and analytical coding skills," said Megan Smith, US Chief Technology Officer, told reporters with USA today Friday. Its really “an ambitious, all-hands-on-deck effort."