Dr. Billy Wong’s (Associate Professor in Widening Participation, University of Reading) latest research paper, titled ‘Female performance and participation in computer science – a national picture’ is recently published. Dr. Wong co-authored this paper with Peter Kemp (King’s College London) who recently passed his PhD viva under the supervision of Dr. Wong and Prof. Debbie Epstein, as well as with Miles Berry (University of Roehampton).
In 2014 the English national curriculum was changed, replacing ICT with a new subject, computing. Computing places more emphasis on computer science and programming, with less of a focus on how to use computer applications. The introduction of computing was accompanied by the creation of a new General Certificate in Secondary Education (GCSE) in computer science, where topics such as programming, would be directly tested through written exams and practical programming sessions.
In September 2017, the GCSE in ICT was discontinued, leaving students who are interested in a computing GCSE with no option other than to study computer science. The change in curriculum has been closely observed by other countries looking to learn lessons from the implementation. There was early speculation that the introduction of computer science would create an elitist and selective subject. Recent concerns move away from the more ‘creative’ ICT programmes of study to a stronger focus on ‘technical’ computing in computer science, such as the emphasis on programming could generate another level of the digital gender divide, even among those who are digitally skilled.
The research, published in the ACM Transactions on Computing Education (TOCE), makes use of the National Pupil Database (NPD) in England to explore the impact of this curriculum change on computer science, with the focus on female participation and attainment, by providing a statistical analysis of examination entries (participation) and results (attainment).
Kemp, P.E.J., Wong, B., & Berry, M.G. (2019). Female performance and participation in computer science – a national picture. ACM Transactions on Computing Education, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1145/3366016