The Importance of Outreach Programs to Unblock the Pipeline and Broaden Diversity in ICT Education

The Importance of Outreach Programs to Unblock the Pipeline and Broaden Diversity in ICT Education

Catherine Lang (La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia), Annemieke Craig (Deakin University, Geelong, Australia) and MaryAnne Egan (Siena College, Loudonville, NY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2016010104
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Abstract

There is a need for outreach programs to attract a diverse range of students to the computing discipline. The lack of qualified computing graduates to fill the growing number of computing vacancies is of concern to government and industry and there are few female students entering the computing pipeline at high school level. This paper presents three outreach programs that have the underlying assumption that students need to be reminded about the creativity and potential of computing so that it remains on the radar of their future career options. Each program instigated social and cultural change through a paradigm shift where girls moved from being ICT consumers to ICT creators. By exposing students to a wide variety of ICT activities and careers during secondary schooling, they were more likely to consider studying information systems, computer science or any other computing course at the university level. Results are presented showing student attitudinal changes as well as observed increases in enrolments at secondary school and university courses.
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Background

There are fewer female students entering the computing pipeline at high school level. For example in Australia in 2001, 36% of all students who satisfactorily completed a final year computing subject at high school were female. That percentage had declined to 18% in 2010 (VCAA, 2010). In the USA the proportion of females in the discipline is also low. The College Board AP Program Summary Report (2012) reports 56% of all Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers in 2012 were female, but only 19% of the AP Computer Science A test-takers were female (College Board, 2012). In the UK, while girls make up 50.7% of all enrolments in the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs) they represent only 9.6% of students undertaking computing at GCE A level (Kirkup et al., 2010). The lack of girls completing senior secondary computing subjects leads to a lack of girls undertaking computing education at university level, and the lack of qualified computing graduates from universities to fill the growing number of computing vacancies is of concern. In the USA, it was acknowledged by President Obama in his 2013 inaugural address:

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