In India, Most CS Grads are Women

March 21, 2010 at 8:42 am 3 comments

The latest issue of CSTA Voice is focused in international computing education issues.  I find these articles fascinating for giving us a sense of what are the factors influencing computing education outcomes, in combinations we might not be trying.  Comparisons with other countries can help us to question some of our assumptions.

Roli Varma writes about computing education in India:

According to government statistics for 2003, women in India received 32% of bachelor engineering degrees and 55% of bachelor CS degrees. This may be surprising in light of the fact that women in India have little to no early exposure to computers or time using them as tools. In 2008, the World Bank ranked India 160th in the world with a per capita income of $950, making ownership of a computer a luxury which few can afford. As a result, young women are unlikely to have used computers until they are admitted to a university.

Is exposure to computer science in high school a necessity to engage female students in computing?  Not in India.  It may still be a necessity in the United States, where public opinion about computing may have turned girls away from computing early.  Clear in both situations, though, is that use of computing doesn’t have a lot to do with pursuing computer science as a major.  We have lots of use of computing here, and few female majors.  They have little use of computing, and many female majors.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Janet Kolodner  |  March 21, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Interesting. I’ve also come across this. My students tell me that girls are encouraged by their families to go into technology in India. In fact, in India, kids are encouraged to go into IT because it is a good way of making money; parents are more interested in having their kids go into IT than having them be doctors. They have this idea that IT is the future. From what my students tell me, there is also a lot less of “girls don’t do math” and “science and technology are for boys” thing going on there, at least among the social classes that we see in at GA Tech.

    Reply
  • 2. Gary Litvin  |  March 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Mark,

    I was intrigued by this article, too. I even asked Roli to send me her extended paper, which she did. It seems her key finding is that these girls in India are comfortable in CS courses, even without prior exposure to computers, because they have a strong background in math. This supports my own intuition and the anecdotal evidence from my wife, who teaches both math and CS. In fact, one of the goals behind our Math and Python book was precisely to recruit to CS those girls who are strong in math but haven’t considered CS, by offering a discrete math course with elements of programming.

    Reply
  • 3. Firaz  |  March 22, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Having come from India, I’m not too surprised by this. In the cities at least, there are an equal no of boys and girls in the IT related engineering courses, with girls outperforming boys consistently! But a major drawback of the CS grads in general is quality, NASSCOM claims that only 25% of the CS grads are employable.

    Reply

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