Given The Choice, Would You Have Done Computer Science In Year 12?

Some 120 students in Victoria may soon have this opportunity as the universities of Monash and Melbourne prepare to introduce them to a specially-designed subject based on the first year of a Computer Science degree. It's hoped that a taste of the syllabus will help arrest a drop in Comp Sci graduates — and graduates from similar "hardcore" fields.

Image: City of Overland Park, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

According to The Age, the plan has been put into motion to "reverse a long-term decline in enrolments in hardcore computer science and engineering courses". It goes on to mention that Melbourne University today sees some 100 graduates a year in computer science and engineering, down from 300 during the "height of the dot com boom".

The Age spoke to Melbourne Uni associate professor Steven Bird, who believes the subjects of computer science and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) are no longer clearly defined — one is about using software, the other creating it. Giving students a chance to experience the difference, even if abridged, could help improve the situation.

If memory serves, the closest thing I was offered in high school (about ten years ago) was a VET (Vocational Education and Training) course in Information Technology... but even then, that's barely comparable to Comp Sci. I know, if offered it back then, I would have jumped at the chance. But then I was already programming as a hobby, so my interest might have been somewhat unnatural compared to that of my peers.

High schools to trial uni computer science in Y12 [The Age]


    What schools don't do a comp sci course in year 12? My school did and still does. Both private and public schools do it in NSW.

      Almost all schools in NSW offer Software Design & Development (closest HSC subject to comp sci). The problem is that there aren't enough students interested hence why the subject does not run at certain schools and students don't gain an interest in them.

      My high school - all girls - had ITS. All we did was make "pretty graphics" over and over again. Never touched a single line of code... Wait, they gave up teaching us HTML basics.... Hmmm... Given the chance, yes I would... In fact I even looked at transferring to an all males school for the day - special permission and all - just to sit in one of their Computer Science classes...

        Odd, surely someone would have told you by now there is no girls on the internet. :P

    Richard Buckland runs a similar programme in NSW giving high school students partially-remote access to first year higher computing courses at UNSW. It's pretty cool - its the full course and they do it concurrently with the Uni students, get Uni credits, Uni tutors visit the high schools all that. I helped tutor it a bit last time - heaps of fun. Definitely worth checking out if you're in to making stuff and computers.

      Richard Buckland... what a legend

    There's one offered here in WA too. Although given the choice again (I'm year 12 now) I would have chosen not to do it. It's a horribly unbalanced course in which we are taught to make databases in MS Access then tested in MySQL, and if you don't understand DFDs you can't pass because their worth nearly half your exam marks. Also the teachers have been teaching for about 20 years and their understanding of modern tech is rather lacking (average hard-drive is 100GB, most good computers have 1GB of RAM and the best gaming computers have a dual core CPU)

      Wow....that seems remotely interesting. 12yrs ago we sat in classrooms copying material off the chalk board. Pages of it. That's it. Absolute garbage. Computing was an extension of another facility.

    I have a friend who does University Computer science while doing year 12 at Monash, by correspondence. I am doing University Mathematics at Melbourne Uni through the UMEP course. I have asked my friend about his course, and he that it isn't very well since they go into detail about stacks etc when they haven't really done any basic/advanced programming yet. It is no problem for him since he already knows most of it. I would like to do some type of IT course, either as the science or just programming but at school it is as Brad said, very basic basic stuff only really on databases.

    Back when I was in high school in NSW (a long time ago), there wasn't even an official basic Computer Science subject in the HSC. I did a one-unit Computing course my school had developed -- there were only three of us in the class! I did get to learn some rudimentary machine code, which was useful for backgrounding, but it was hard to escape the conclusion that I knew more about programming generally than my teacher did . . .

    The closest my school offered was a typing course using typewriters!! I did it because it was a choice between that or PhysEd...

    Is there anything like that in NSW? I go into Yr12 at the start of next term.

      The closest thing you can get is UNSW COMP1917:

      There's also the NCSS which I highly recommend if you're interested in computer science:

      Some universities offer a "head start" so to say for Year 11's and 12's. You get to do a single subject at University whilst studying Year 12 full time. QUT (Queensland) has "start QUT" which is aimed at 11's and 12's. If you pass both subjects you are guaranteed entry no matter what your GPA. You should check with your local uni's if anything like that is available.

    In year 12 atm at nsw - A lot of schools (including mine) don't offer comp sci. There are quite a few exceptions but those are mainly schools focused on "the laptop program". It's something they should introduce further in australia - because when i looked at doing it externally there were just too many hurdles involved

    I think this is a great idea! In NSW there are 3 computing subjects which are: Information Processes & Technology, Software Design & Development & Information Technology (VET).

    IT is actually based of the TAFE cert. II which is not very challenging. It is more about whether you can use a computer in the office environment and providing internal support.

    IPT is more about the information systems and how to implement the technology. A lot of students choose IPT thinking that it will be very hands-on and technical. This then turns them off as they get a false representation of what studying computer science is like.

    SDD is the closest subject to computer science but even then students don't learn enough about the practical side. The majority of the course is about the theory and working on a project.

    Students who chose these subjects are often turned off from going into further studies for computer science as they have found it was boring or not challenging enough or too much theory. Being able to get a sample of what studying computer science is actually like would be a great to encourage more students to study computer science at uni.

    Here's a related article that some of you might be interested in reading:

    I know in Queensland that there is not much specifically in the QCS. In terms of testing there is the ICAS computer Skills competion run by the University of New South Wales which in terms of difficulty is mixed, some years its really easily and yet in others its quite hard. At my school a lot of the Computer Science is mixed with technology.

    I did do CS in year 12, learning COBOL on mark sense cards that fed into a PDP11 before heading off to Uni for more of the same but with punchex cards into an ICL mainframe instead.

    So many decades ago!

    Nearly 15 years ago I had the choice to do computer science in Y12, and took it up. In Victoria. In those days the class was called "Information Systems", these days it's called "Software Development".

    What's the point? If you aren't from India these days you aren't getting an IT job.

      Not true. I studied IT, graduated this semester, and I have already worked a number of jobs. I freelance, so it might be slightly different to getting full-time work, but there are PLENTY of opportunities out there, and good pay. I'm easily earning $800 a week minimum after tax (plus any costs occurred such as buying software, travelling to meet clients, etc). It can come down to your skill level (I'm mostly self-trained in my area but with a degree behind me) and your level of dedication at finding jobs and sticking to them.

      Blame expectations and not skill. Too many green-behind-the-ears graduates think they are worth 50k and an office with a view

      @boris: No true. You are either not in the industry are you lack the talent to be in IT. I am a Software Developer and I have been contracting for the past 12 years - in the UK and here in Australia... and only once have I found it difficult to get a job (after 9/11). Working in IT has allowed me to see and travel the world. I have not worked a full year in over ten years. btw I am not Indian!

    My year 10 game development course put me off doing any computer courses at my school in my HSC, the teacher who was meant to be the head of IT in the school (and was the only teacher to teach computer courses), had no idea how to program so rather than teaching us anything constructive gave us a series of tutorials to do which were mostly in the simple if not lovable program scratch, before deciding to enter us all in the NCSS challenge and only gave us the most basic introduction to python and banning us from helping each other out.

    They certainly need to do something as the quality of programmers here in Australia is abysmal.

    Since I moved here from the States, I've come to run a department at a well known Austrlian company that does development/integration and testing of software. I have struggled over the last two years to find competent developers (hell, technologists in general) who have even the most basic of skills (like simple software patterns!) and almost none of them have a comp sci background.

    Bah - I think my blood pressure is rising just thinking about it. Suffice it to say, in my professional opinion, Australia is really far behind where it ought to be in this area and the higher education system focuses too much on "ICT Skills" (whatever the hell that is!?) and not enough on the hard science/engineering.

    FFS, I have 3 jobs with salaries ranging from 80k to 105k right now that I absolutely cannot fill. It boggles my mind!

      Consider hiring uni students for work experience - "usually" quick learners and are much more willing to adapt to your needs than a standard worker. If they work out well, you can offer them a more permanent position (keeping in mind they may still have study left at uni). If they dont, then you at least got some cheap labour and they got to put something down on their resumes.

    The reason they are doing this is because Comp Sci really isn't about learning to code- it's about learning how to think about algorithms and how to get programs to work. They're really struggling to get students to do more than get things working by using google to fill in gaps in their code. Giving students a perception about what it actually is (and give them a head start on the coding practice) is why they want to do this, I think.

    I finished a Comp Sci degree at Monash in 2011, and I'm currently studying to be a teacher (using my Arts degree as qualification to teach those subjects).

    I think the battle needs to start with educating the educators about IT before they can start to educate their students. I don't mean the basics like how to use a smartphone - but opening their minds to the amazing things professional Computer Scientists and Engineers actually do in the world.
    But is a university degree the best path to getting into the ITS/ICT industry?
    I've yet to see a university degree in Australia that actually gives graduates the CCNA, MCSE, and Sun/Oracle certification required to get a position - or the most opportunities to get the hands-on experience with a project team deploying the most up-to-date technologies in use today.
    If I could be my own career's counsellor 15 years ago - I'd sit my ass down and tell me to take more initiative with my own career; to actively investigate and learn what I needed to be qualified, certified, and able - instead of waiting to be spoon fed by the curriculum. Here's hoping it's not too late 15 years on.

    My school (WA) offered very limitted computing courses, and there was no computer science until two years after I left

    We had Information Processes & Technology and Software Design and Development. I took both subjects and both fell well short of expectations.
    IPT was run by someone whose working IT knowledge was out of date, and SDD basically taught us how to code in Visual Basic and barely touch on object oriented programming.
    Guess you have to do uni or even TAFE to get a decent Comp Sci equivalent.

    I'm in Year 10 at the moment and I have to choose my subjects for the next two years, Computer Science hasn't been an option for me but Networking has and since it's all that's offered, I have to take it with both hands and hope for more options in University.

    I did Computer Science (such as it was) in Year 11, 1986. In Victoria. All it did was confirm that, as much as I liked it, I wasn't a programmer.

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