Computer Science Education

Gallup-Google Research Finds that Gender Gap Toward CS Remains

New research has found that female students are still skeptical about the merits of computer science education and show less interest than male students in learning CS or pursuing careers in the field.

While 73 percent of boys said they were confident they could learn CS if they "wanted to," just 60 percent of girls said the same. This was similar to the gender gap that was reported in 2016 in the same survey. Also, while almost four in 10 students (38 percent) were "somewhat interested" in learning CS, interest for girls (25 percent) was half that of boys (50 percent). Overall, students who identified as Black, Hispanic or White showed similar levels of interest (42 percent, 41 percent and 36 percent, respectively).

Nearly a quarter of students (23 percent) said they expected to go after a job in CS one day. But boys were almost three times as likely as girls to have this expectation — 33 percent versus 12 percent.

Gallup-Google Research Finds that Gender Gap Toward CS Remains

Students who said their schools offered classes dedicated to computer science.Source: "Current Perspectives and Continuing Challenges in Computer Science Educationin U.S. K-12 Schools" from Gallup and Google

Those results surfaced in a survey done by Gallup in a project supported by Google. Gallup interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,402 public and private school students in grades 7-12, as well as 2,092 parents and guardians of students in those grades and 979 public and private school teachers of students in grades preschool through 12.

Students were "generally unconvinced" that CS was important for them to learn. While 31 percent of girls said CS was important to learn, 49 percent of boys said it was. However, where girls and boys reported spending at least an hour a week studying CS in school, both sexes were more likely to say that learning CS was important. That was true for Black (42 percent), Hispanic (39 percent) and White (39 percent) students.

Black students, in particular, were more likely to state that CS was important for all students to learn, 48 percent, compared to 37 percent of Hispanic students and 32 percent of White students.

Rural students were less likely than urban students to want to tell their friends they were interested in CS — 58 percent compared to 70 percent.

Gallup-Google Research Finds that Gender Gap Toward CS Remains

Student confidence level in learning computer science and expectation aboutpursuing a CS career. Source: "Current Perspectives and Continuing Challenges in Computer Science Educationin U.S. K-12 Schools" from Gallup and Google

Dedicated CS classes were more common in high school, according to students, than middle school (55 percent versus 39 percent). Black and Hispanic students were less likely to say their schools offered dedicated classes (46 percent each) than White students (52 percent). One in five students didn't know whether their schools had CS classes. These percentages were lower than the responses from a 2016 survey that asked the same questions.

"Interventions from parents, educators, community leaders, policymakers, nonprofits and the technology industry are needed to encourage girls, Black students and Hispanic students to take computer science courses and ensure that when that interest exists, it’s matched with high quality learning opportunities," wrote Maggie Johnson, Google's vice president of research and computer science education, in a company article. "These students also need to be shown how CS knowledge can help them meet their goals in a variety of fields including the humanities, medicine and the arts."

Google and Gallup will host a virtual Zoom panel discussion on Sep. 30 at noon Pacific time to discuss key takeaways from the report.

"Current Perspectives and Continuing Challenges in Computer Science Education in U.S. K-12 Schools" is openly available through the Google website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.