Should computer science fulfill a foreign language admissions requirement?

January 22, 2018 at 7:00 am 3 comments

An Atlanta-area PBS station did an article at the end of last year praising Georgia’s stance allowing CS to count as a foreign language: Is Computer Science A Foreign Language? Ga. Says Yes, Sees Boost In Enrollment | 90.1 FM WABE

The GT director of admissions was interviewed about this requirement in Insider HigherEd and had a much more reasonable take:

Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admissions at Georgia Institute of Technology, said he saw value in the steps by Georgia to encourage more study of computer science in elementary and secondary school.

“I like that kids, even in eighth and ninth grade, who are planning their path through school would take these courses, because basic coding and language will set them up for opportunities upon high school graduation that they would not have otherwise,” Clark said.

In fact, he said his concern is that access to computer science is unequal in Georgia high schools. Most of those who not only take a course, but are able to take Advanced Placement in computer science, are in the metro Atlanta area, Clark said. Georgia Tech is worried about these inequities and is exploring ways to use online instruction to make sure those outside the Atlanta area have access.

At the same time, Clark said, the push for computer science should not be viewed as either/or with foreign languages. He said Georgia Tech is “looking for students who demonstrate that international vision and interest,” and that he finds many of those applicants who are taking AP computer science in high school are also pursuing foreign language instruction as advanced levels.

More than half of Georgia Tech students participate in study abroad, he noted, and 10 percent of undergraduates are from outside the United States. “We are intent upon enrolling students who in high school chose to seek out that global perspective,” he said.

Source: Should computer science fulfill a foreign language admissions requirement?

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jesse Heines  |  January 22, 2018 at 9:34 am

    I took a computer programming course when I was in college in the late 1960s. I learned Fortran. After I graduated college I taught in an school for English-speaking children of the diplomatic corps in the former Soviet Union. While there I learned to speak Russian. Learning Russian is nothing like learning Fortran or C or C++ or Java or PHP or whatever computer language you happen to like. A major reason is that in the process of learning Russian I learned a great deal about English. I believe that I am a better English speaker and writer because I know another language at least to some degree. There are numerous examples in today’s vernacular that demonstrate how poorly we speak our own language, most notably talking like Cookie Monster (“me and my friends watched the playoff games yesterday” vs. “my friends and I watched …”). You won’t learn how to speak and write well from studying computer languages, but you will from studying other human languages.

  • 2. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  January 22, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    I agree with Jesse that CS does not fill the same educational niche as foreign language. It would make more sense to count CS as a math or science course. (It isn’t science, but it is engineering, which most educators can’t distinguish from science.)

  • 3. gflint  |  January 24, 2018 at 10:27 am

    I was never sure how foreign language and CS/programming even got considered as the same thing. The learning process and goal are completely different. I understand why administrations are trying to make CS equivalent to something else, high school kids have so many requirements now that if CS is required something has to go. Let’s make CS equivalent to English. The work “syntax” is used in both courses.


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