Computer Science Officially US STEM Subject
Computer Science Officially US STEM Subject
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 12 October 2015

President Obama has signed into law a bill that expands the definition of STEM to include Computer Science. This represents a step forward in the push to get CS into the school curriculum in the United States.

The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths and you might have imagined that it already encompassed computer science.

Not officially until last week although it is something that has been being increasingly advocated. Code.org for example has pointed to the fact that the status of Computer Science meant that it tends to be omitted from the school curriculum in the US.

The bill which was approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate is referred to as Smith's STEM act Education Act as it was introduced by Lamar Smith, Chairman of  the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Its success may have something to do with it being a bipartisan bill. Smith is a Republican from Texas while its other proposer, Elizabeth Esty, also member of the committee, is a Democrat from Connecticut.

 

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The press release issued by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee quotes Chairman Smith as saying:

“We must prepare our students for degrees in STEM subjects to ensure that they have the ability to thrive in today’s technology-based economy. This means motivating more American students to study STEM subjects, including computer science. Unfortunately, America lags behind many other nations when it comes to STEM education. American students rank 21st in science and 26th in math. The STEM Education Act expands the definition of STEM, encourages students to study these subjects and trains more teachers."

Elizabeth Esty added:

“More and more jobs of the 21st century require science, technology, engineering, and math skills. We need to make sure that all of our students have opportunities to thrive in STEM education. This bill strengthens our efforts at the federal level and ensures that critical computer science skills are included among STEM subjects."

The Stem Education Act 2015 also supports "informal" STEM education that takes place in museums, since centers and after-school programs by directing the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue to award grants to these initiatives. It also amends the NSF Robert Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship to include computer science as an eligible subject for grants.

As President Obama has frequently indicated his support for the promotion of Computer Science, no doubt he was pleased to sign this bill into federal law. 

 

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