Computer science courses should be obligatory, say experts

Summary

It is essential that primary and secondary school students be given computer science lessons, including programming, according to the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences and Arts in a report to the government

Programming skills essential

Computer science studies, including lessons on programming, should be a required subject in both primary and secondary education, according to experts of the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences and Arts, which delivered an advisory report to the government.

“Every child has to have good ICT skills,” wrote Giovanni Samaey and Jacques Van Remortel in an op-ed piece for De Standaard, who chaired the working group that generated the report. Samaey is a lecturer at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) and Van Remortel led the research centre at telecoms company Alcatel for several years.

“Youngsters should acquire computational problem-solving skills at school, not just learn how to work with a computer,” they said. Extensive ICT knowledge will also help youngsters to participate in social and ethical discussions around technology, they said.

Currently, specific eindtermen – the final requirements for passing the year – on ICT are only applied in primary education and the first grade of secondary education. But these mostly deal with digital literacy. Only in technical education (TSO) is there a fully developed course on ICT.

Samaey and Van Remortel consider the reform of secondary education as the ideal opportunity to make adjustments and said that teaching studies should be adapted and current teachers trained to handle the subject.

The scientists have explained their vision to Flemish education minister Hilde Crevits and the federal minister of the digital agenda, Alexander De Croo. Crevits told public broadcaster VRT that she will include the request in the debate on eindtermen in parliament this autumn. 

Educational system

The Flemish educational system is divided into two levels: primary (age six to 12) and secondary school (12 to 18). Education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 18.
Types - There are three educational networks in Flanders: the Flemish Community’s GO! network, and publicly funded education – either publicly or privately run.
Not enough space - In recent years, Flemish schools have been struggling with persistent teacher shortages and a growing lack of school spaces.
No tuition fees - Nursery, primary and secondary school are free in Flanders.
1

million school-going children in 2013

30

million euros Flemish education budget for new school infrastructures in 2013

11

percent of boys leaving secondary school without a diploma