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Limited Access to Computers Prevents Minority Students from Learning Computer Science Despite Growing Interest

New research from Google has found that black and Hispanic students have limited access to computer science education due in part to a lack of access to computers both at home and in school. The new research has also found that despite this limited access, black and Hispanic students are more likely than their counterparts to express interest in learning the subject. 

This missed opportunity was found after Google commissioned Gallup to conduct a multiyear research effort focusing on the relationship between computer science and underrepresented student groups.

When it comes down to it, black students are simply less likely than white students to have computer science being taught in their schools (47% vs. 58%).

But even more than that, black and Hispanic students are significantly less likely to use a computer at home on a daily basis, indicating that minority groups have less experience with computers and therefore more ground to cover when learning computer science skills.

The research also took a look at underrepresentation of females in computer science, finding that females lack both exposure to and confidence in the subject.

"Despite presumably equal access to CS learning opportunities in schools, female students are not only less aware but also less likely than male students who have learned CS to say they learned it online (31% vs. 44%) or on their own outside of a class or program (41% vs. 54%). Female students are also less interested (16% vs. 34%) and less confident they could learn CS (48% vs. 65%). The lesser awareness, exposure, interest, and confidence could be keeping female students from considering learning CS,” the report said.

On a positive note, the research found that after-school clubs and groups are doing a great job helping underrepresented students learn computer science in spite of the aforementioned barriers.

"Both Black and Hispanic students (34% and 41%, respectively) are more likely than White students (18%) to say they learned CS in a group or club at school,” the report says.

In its conclusion, the report urges parents and educators to use its findings to help underrepresented groups overcome barriers and ultimately pursue careers in computer science.

The report is part of a series of research conducted by Google that is fueled by the company’s belief that computer science "develops critical thinking skills needed to solve complex problems, creativity that fosters new ideas, and skills to drive innovation in tech and other fields.”

Read the full report.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

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