Google, Gallup find racial, gender gaps in computer science learning

Hispanic and black students are more likely than white students to be interested in computer science education, but face considerable social and cultural barriers to achieving their goals, Google and Gallup said in a report released Tuesday.

“Underrepresented groups face structural barriers in access and exposure to computer science that create disparities in opportunities to learn” for blacks and Hispanics, according to the report by polling expert Gallup and tech giant Google, which reported about the study on its blog.

Those aren’t the only barriers, though, the study determined.

“Underrepresented groups also face social barriers to learning computer science, such as the continuing perception that computer science is only for certain groups, namely white or Asian males,” Google and Gallup reported.

Mountain View-based Google also released some studies that served as companion reports to the primary research.

“Black students are less likely than white students to have access to a computer science class in school,” Google and Gallup reported. “Female students are less likely to be aware of computer science learning opportunities online and in their community.”

Despite those barriers, black students are l.5 times more more likely than white students, and Hispanic students are 1.7 times more likely than white students, to be “very interested” computer science learning, the research determined.

An estimated 47 percent of black students say they have dedicated computer science classes, compared with 58 percent of white students and 59 percent of Hispanic students.

An estimated 58 percent of black and 50 percent of Hispanic students use a computer at least most days at home. That is compared with 68 percent of white students with such usage frequency.

Google reported through the research that 39 percent of girls are being told by parents or teachers that they would be good at computer science. That’s well below the 56 percent of boys who receive such encouragement.

Girls also are less likely than boys to be aware of computer science learning opportunities outside of school.

Gallup surveyed students, parents and teachers during portions of December 2015 and January 2016. The survey polled 1,672 students in grades seven through 12, 1,677 parents with at least one student in those grade levels, and 1,008 teachers in grades one through 12.

The study suggested that school officials have begun to remedy the technology learning gap.

“We found that 40 percent of K-12 principals say they offer CS classes with programming/coding, up from 25 percent the year before,” Google reported. “However, a great deal of work still remains.”


Photo illustration from Miami Herald/MCT archives


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