Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, today took part in a Minecraft Hour of Code at Microsoft’s offices in Sandyford. The Minister joined Microsoft, CoderDojo and 6th class students from St Olaf’s National School, Sandyford as they prepared for the global Hour of Code campaign taking place from the 5th – 11th of December.
Microsoft is supporting the campaign by inviting every school in the country to take part in a free Minecraft Hour of Code on Wednesday, December 7th at 11am. Microsoft is delivering a tutorial through Skype and schools can log on to www.microsoft.ie/HourofCode2016 to sign up to take part. Those who can’t make that time can download the tutorial for free and take part at a time that suits at Code.org/Minecraft.
To coincide with the Hour of Code campaign, Microsoft today released the findings of a new study of 1,000 Irish girls and young women aged between 11 and 18 focused on the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). The study shows that girls in Ireland become interested in STEM subjects at age 11 with interest beginning to fall at age 15, highlighting the importance of engaging girls in primary school cycle.
Research also found that 54% of girls can imagine themselves pursuing a career in one of the STEM disciplines. 53% of those polled believe there are encouraging role models out there for them. However, 30% of Irish students don’t understand how STEM is relevant to their lives.
Speaking at Microsoft today Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD said: “I’m delighted to join Microsoft to take part in an Hour of Code this morning. For the generation of children recently born and starting to enter primary school, creative thinking and problem-solving skills will be absolutely key to how they develop and achieve their potential. In particular, their ability to think critically and develop solutions in the digital world will be vital for their prospects in life. I am determined that we should continually improve the education system in this area. That is why I have asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to consider approaches to introducing the teaching of coding in primary schools. This will ensure that every child has an opportunity to develop the computational, and flexible and creative thinking skills that are the basis of computer science and coding. I am acutely conscious that we need to give all children the best start in a world where such skills will be key to participation and success. Computer science, which will include coding, will be offered as a full leaving certificate subject from 2019, and a coding short course is now available at junior cycle.”
The Minister continued, “The success of the CoderDojo project is a fantastic example of the benefits of teaching coding to young children – hugely popular with children, it teaches creative problem solving skills in a manner that engages and excites them. I believe that we must learn from successful programmes like this to improve the experience and outcomes of the education system for our children.”
The Minister concluded by saying “I hope that next week all schools in the country take the opportunity to engage students on one of the free tutorials Microsoft is offering.”
The research shows that girls reject the idea that boys have a natural aptitude and superior skills in STEM, with 60% of Irish girls disagreeing with the jibe “I will never be as good in STEM subjects as boys.” 50% of girls feel that there are encouraging role models out there, but 44% stated that when they picture a scientist, engineer or mathematician they still picture a man first.
“Digital literacy is a core skill required for the future – whether you are an artist, a doctor, a retail assistant, a care giver – access to information and being connected is critical. Increasingly we are also seeing the need for skills such as problem solving and computational thinking. These will be essential skills for the future for many jobs that have not yet even being imagined. We need to encourage more young girls to sustain their initial interest in science and technology, and to build capabilities in computational thinking,” commented Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland.
“We’re partnering with Code.org and CoderDojo again this year for the Hour of Code to make coding more accessible to hundreds of students in Ireland and help more young girls nurture their interest in technology. Schools across the country are invited to join us in participating in the Hour of Code, which is the perfect opportunity to give coding a try for the first time.”
“The research findings we have announced today show us that girls at age 11 are interested in STEM subjects and we have a five to six year window to nurture this interest. It’s our responsibility to engage with girls at a primary school age and continue to deliver the message to them around the opportunities a career in STEM disciplines can offer. The introduction of coding into the secondary school curriculum in 2019 is a step in the right direction however we now need to begin to look at how we engage earlier at a primary level and with more regularity. I hope all schools, parents and teachers will support the Hour of Code campaign and help students across the country to take part in the free Minecraft tutorial we have created.”
Encouragement and mentorship are key
The insights gained from this research can help educators, policymakers and companies like Microsoft understand the challenges young Irish women face when it comes to pursuing STEM subjects, and take practical steps to overcome them.
The research revealed six statistically important drivers which impact girls’ interest in STEM subjects, listed in order of importance:
- Dispelling gender-stereotypes in STEM careers
- Gaining practical experiences and hands-on exercises in STEM subjects;
- Peer approval;
- Having a father who encourages them to pursue STEM;
- Having teachers who encourage them to pursue STEM;
- Feeling more confident that men and women are treated equally in STEM careers.
Speaking today Giustina Mizzoni, Executive Director at CoderDojo Foundation. “The Hour of Code is a campaign aimed to engage all students and introduce them to coding. With this campaign we aim to dispel stereotypes associated with the tech industry, provide access to relevant role models and get young people excited about the endless possibilites available to them when they learn how to create using technology.”
Developing next generation skills
Recognising the need to equip more people with the right skills for our digital era, Microsoft recently published a book entitled A Cloud for Global Good, which includes policy recommendations for creating a more inclusive cloud-based society – whether that’s getting computer science on curricula, fostering public-private partnerships, or investing in lifelong skills training. The company believes that all citizens should be able to take full advantage of the benefits and opportunities promised by a new generation of innovative cloud services.
More information about Microsoft local activities and plans for Hour of Code are available on the Microsoft Ireland Twitter feed @MicrosoftIRL. Log onto code.org/Minecraft to download free Hour of Code tutorials or register for the Skype tutorial on Wednesday 7th December from 11am – 12pm www.microsoft.ie/HourofCode2016.