From Preteens to Teenagers –Change in the Perception of IT amongst students
Many students of both genders said that computer science was ‘boring’. Secondary school students also thought that what they were taught in primary school was very similar and not much harder than their courses in secondary school. Moreover, fewer girls and boys tend to enjoy IT lessons that much after the age of 14. However, girls seem to lose that interest in computer science much faster and slightly earlier than the boys. This is even more important while examining the girls’ choices, since interest in the subject is a major factor, sometimes a sole factor while making a career choice. But, for boys, interest in the subject and the decision of a career are two very different entities.
In primary school, the majority of pupils said that they enjoyed computer lessons. However, fewer and fewer students claimed to enjoy the subject as they progressed to grade 9. This ‘enjoyment rate’ fell faster for girls than for boys.
Creativity and Fun
Creativity is fundamental in computing for children. In an educational environment, very often, the first exposure that children have to computers is the use of basic creative software like Paint. Once students can grasp basic aspects of using and handling a computer, they begin to use one at home and can then explore different such programs on their own. The element of fun in computer lessons is present throughout primary school. However, once they get to secondary school, many students claim that their computer science lessons then lose the vital element of fun. 77% of all girls enjoy playing games and begin to find computer lessons more and more boring in secondary school.
Students vs. Professionals – Opinion about the IT industry
Do pupils perceive the IT Industry in the same way like professionals do? Due to different perspectives and ideas of students regarding the computer industry as compared to the opinions of the IT professionals, the image of the computer industry is still hazy to students of different ages.
Students don’t view the computing industry the way that IT Professionals do probably because both groups have different experiences of the computing industry. IT Professionals of both genders are usually positive about their career prospects and enjoy being part of such a dynamic and fast moving industry. On the other hand, students who were surveyed are of the opinion that the industry is ‘boring’ and were very unsure of the opportunities in computer science and IT.
Lesson Enjoyment vs Career Aspiration
Each gender viewed enjoyment of computer lessons and computing career aspirations differently. This is probably why girls lose interest in the subject faster than boys. As mentioned earlier, for girls the level of enjoyment in computer lessons is a deciding factor in choosing computer science as a career. But, this is not necessarily the case with boys and boys have other factors that they consider more important when choosing a field to pursue.
A career in computing is not something that most males or females in organizations aspired to pursue when they were in school. However, the interest in computing for a boy culminates much earlier than a similar interest in the case of the girls. The male participants were interested in computing because they found technology interesting, but they did not relate this interest to a possible career option until much later.
In contrast females thought of computing when it was time to start thinking about careers, not earlier. A computing or IT career was not considered seriously until the stage where they probably got to pre-university or even university level.
Though women claim that they have not been subject to any direct forms of discrimination in the work environment, many do claim to be under pressure to prove that they are just as capable, skilled and talented as their male counterparts. The girls and females surveyed did not consider or mention the possibilities of discrimination as a factor that deterred them from choosing computer science as a profession.
Students, both male and female, thought that role models were important, and not having sufficient role models in the computing industry was a negative factor in the choice of a career. Parents who use the computer at work are somewhat placed as role models in the field. Parents also provide and later determine the student’s opinions of the computing industry.
The Reason for the Difference
The fact that more boys choose to take up an undergraduate major in computer science than girls is expected. However, some differing responses between girls and boys with regard to factors affecting their choices are surprising.
Boys and girls choose or do not choose computer science as a professional field because of interest and this seems as a major factor particularly with the girls. Possible employment opportunities in the field are also a determining factor with both the boys and the girls. Boys are also motivated or not motivated by any previous experience or lack of exposure to computers while the prominence and significance of computers as a technological tool is a big factor with the girls. Families influence girls and boys similarly but media, friends and school have a greater impact on the girls. Communication, infrastructure and role models are the most crucial factors of the social environment that affect such a decision with the boys and girls. Reasons that influence boys’ decisions to pursue computer science are: how interesting the subject is and employment opportunities. Girls seem to give more importance to the job security that the profession offers.
Regarding the students’ thoughts of their future after going into the field of computer science, boys will picture themselves as computer scientists in lucrative and profitable careers. Girls tend to emphasize permanency in their future jobs, and are less concerned about remuneration. Surprisingly, most girls and boys agreed that the profile of a computer scientist suited both girls and boys. Yet, more boys thought that the profession of a computer scientist suited men more than women.
With respect to the specific factors that influence a student’s choice in choosing a computer science profession, we can say that students today have not reached a level of self-consciousness that they can address such a choice without external factors playing such a critical role.