Early exposure essential to draw girls into tech careers

Girls must be exposed to science and technology early in their lives in order to make informed choices about their education and careers, said panelists at a dialogue session on Tuesday (Nov 16). United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, who is in Singapore on an official visit and was one of the speakers, cited an example from the US state of Rhode Island, where she had served as governor.

Astonishing results from early exposure to computer science

"We brought about the teaching of computer science in every public school in Rhode Island, starting when kids were in kindergarten, (at) five years old. And the result of that early training was astonishing. "Once girls were exposed to computer science, naturally they took to it, they did incredibly well and more of them started to go into tech fields, simply because they were exposed to it," said Ms Raimondo.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo at a panel discussion at the National University of Singapore. The Straits Times (16 Nov 2021)

Singapore is starting to incorporate technology into school curriculum

Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, highlighted the importance of growing the pipeline for tech talent at an early age. "We have to start very young. In our schools, for example, any child above the age of 10 has the opportunity to do coding for fun. And this is where they get to learn some of the core computational concepts," she said.

Compulsory coding enrichment classes have been conducted for all upper primary pupils since 2020, as part of efforts to expose children to basic coding. "We hope that it provides a foundation so they don't feel alienated and can grasp the domain." Social norms, too, tend to dictate what girls can and cannot do, and what they should and should not do, Mrs Teo said. She added that as girls grow up, they must have the confidence to pursue subjects typically associated with boys, as well as careers in technology.

We agree. Singapore needs to start incorporating technology into our education system

We completely agree with the Minster for Communications and Information. Singapore's growing technology sector is now a dominant force of the economy (Technology companies are beginning to dominate Singapore), and the skillsets required to thrive in this new digital economy will be different in the years to come.

While Singapore is taking active steps to incorporate more computer science content in primary school with the start of the Code for Fun program, we think that more needs to be done in order for children today to be well equipped for the jobs and challenges of the future.


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