Bored with your Spanish lessons? Kentucky’s Senate Bill 16 passed with a 10-1 vote at the Education Committee and will be bringing a new option to classrooms statewide. The new legislation will allow students to study computer programming to meet their foreign language requirements. With similar bills being supported nationwide, it looks like America has a new language entering the classroom.
Republican Senator David Givens sponsored the bill because he believes that it will enable children to compete for well-paid jobs in the ever-expanding IT sector. Givens cites the estimated one million programming jobs that are expected to be available by 2020.
Students in Kentucky are currently required to earn 22 credits to receive a high school diploma. To meet those requirements, they must have 15 math, science, English and social studies credits. Given the few other remaining courses available for students, supporters believe that allowing computer programming to be considered a language will help kids prepare for jobs. Students planning to attend a university or college need to have at least two foreign language credits.
Givens notes that only 2.4 percent of college students are currently graduating with a computer science degree. Despite the increasing number of jobs available, he says that fewer students are prepared to take on those jobs.
The number of computer science degrees earned in the United States actually peaked during the 2003-2004 school year, with a total of 1.4 million degrees received.
In addition to helping Kentucky’s future employees in general, Givens believes that minorities and women will be helped in particular. He says that they are under-represented in computer science fields, and he is hoping to increase those rates by adding a new language course possibility in schools across America.
The current education law in New Mexico requires that students take at least one foreign language credit in order to graduate from high school. Candelaria added that each district could still choose to teach Spanish, Latin or French. The goal of his legislation is to add options for students.
Since all of the legislation was recently developed, it remains to be seen if the new computer programming language option will affect the number of bilingual Americans. According to a survey by the European Commission, only about 15-20 percent of Americans consider themselves bilingual. This number is dramatically lower than the 56 percent of Europeans who can speak more than one language.
Many foreign language advocates have stressed the value of language learning, which they believe helps to expand cultural understanding. In addition to facilitating a great cross-cultural exchange, foreign language learning has been shown to provide a wide array of positive impacts. A great deal of research has shown that bilingualism can positively children’s linguistic, cognitive and educational development. Adding a new language option to schools across America will provide similar benefits, which will be seen as more students explore the computer programming language option.
By Nicci Mende