Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a speech this morning on New York City education standards, calling for a greater emphasis on computer science programs in order to better prepare students for the growing tech-focused job market, regardless of students’ race, ethnicity, or financial standing.
The mayor’s speech was delivered to an invite-only audience of approximately 300 “top educators and community leaders,” according to the New York Daily News, but de Blasio’s office invited the general public to watch a live broadcast of the speech and participate in the conversation on social media sites, using the hashtag #EducateNYC.
The New York Times and Business Insider reported that the mayor called for all public schools in New York City to offer computer science classes to all students within the next few years. The city intends to invest at least $81 million in the project over the next decade, and is hoping to bring in the majority of this money through private donations.
Although many private schools in New York City already provide computer science classes, de Blasio stated that the city’s public schools are lacking.
According to the New York Times, less than 10% of the city’s schools provide computer science learning opportunities, and only about 1% of students actually receive this education.
The most obvious roadblock is the lack of equipment, especially in a big city such as New York where many neighborhoods are highly concentrated with families living below the poverty line.
But perhaps the bigger problem, which doesn’t have such an easy solution, is the lack of educators who are capable of teaching computer sciences. Not only is there a lack of teacher certification programs — these don’t even exist at the moment in NYS for computer science education, unlike other subjects — but there are very few, if any, students coming out of college with a background in both computer science and education.
This ultimately leads to education programs which are lacking computer science lessons, which is a worrying trend considering that nearly every industry today has already begun implementing advanced IT programs and investing in IT departments. With the number of smartphone users growing by approximately 42% each year, there is a constant stream of businesses seeking to adapt to mobile networks; in New York City alone, the technology sector grew by 57% between 2007 and 2014, creating a huge demand for young workers.
Mayor de Blasio stated that his plan will require a lot of work and a lot of money — the city may have to hire as many as 5,000 new teachers — but he hopes that this plan will level the playing field for low-income students, primarily black and Hispanic students, and also for girls who wish to enter the male-dominated IT sector.