Written answers

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Further and Higher Education

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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69. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his views on building links with further and higher education institutions with schools to further develop an interest in computer science and build on successful initiatives (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43306/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The education system has a number of key strategies in place at all levels to encourage links between further and higher education institutions and schools, to further develop the interest of young people in computer science and build on successful initiatives.

Ireland’s Third ICT Skills Action Plan, Technology Skills 2022, was published on 19th February 2019. It seeks to deliver 47,000 IT Graduates by 2022 and sets out the priority actions which will be undertaken in the four-year period 2019-2022 to meet the demands for high-level ICT skillsets in the Irish economy. It sets out to provide appropriate education and training pathways for people to train, learn and upskill in a variety of high-level ICT skills which are sought after by a diverse range of industries to support and drive economic performance over the coming years.

The ambitious targets in the plan will increase the total number of graduates with high-level ICT skills by more than 5,000 every year by 2022. The strategic priorities of the plan will be delivered in conjunction with other initiatives including the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 and the STEM Education Policy Statement 2017-2026, that aim to increase participation at school level in ICT and STEM subjects.

A key measure in the promotion of ICT and computer science courses to school students is the provision of ICT Summer Camps. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) allocated €260,000 in 2019 to support further provision summer camps by higher education institutions. These Summer Camps are aimed at second level students, with a focus on female participation and aim to encourage young participants to consider a career in ICT and especially computing careers.

In 2019, 18 higher education Institutions held 58 summer and autumn camps with overall participation of 8,652 students attending from all over the country. Female participation was 45.1%. It is important to note that within this overall total, TU Dublin Tallaght campus ran 104 one-day student outreach camps and a National Youth Reach Festival with significant number of students attending both events.

In 2019 DojoMór and MegaDojo events also took place nationwide. The total number of students who attended these events was 2,518 and female participation was 40.7%.

In 2020 due to the COVID-19 impact, a number of camps originally proposed were cancelled and a number of other providers successfully converted face to face camps to online camps in 2020. The HEA allocated €296,398 in 2020 to support the provision ICT summer camps by 15 higher education institutions. Approximately 5,000 second level students attended these camps (including two major DoJoMor events). The rate of female participation in the camps was 49%.

As a further means of supporting the uptake of Leaving Certificate Computer Science, the Leaving Certificate Computer Science Support Framework Action Plan September 2020 to June 2021 was published by the Department of Education in November 2020. Actions within this framework include:

- Buddy/Mentor System: the creation of a panel of Further education or third level mentors to provide online or face to face support.

- Sponsored PME: a process of engagement with Business and Industry, HEIs and Education and Training Boards to explore the possibility of supporting students in Professional Masters of Education in Computer Science for Further Education.

- Sustained Support, Initial Teacher Education and postgraduate programmes: This will extend this partnership to FE, HEIs, Business and Industry and Educational Centres.

- Transition Year: Develop partnership with third-party providers and establish links with local FE colleges that do computer science programmes and support computing apprenticeships

The importance and relevance of STEM education, and further developing interest in computer science, was abundantly clear during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is certain that many more challenges will face us, and if we can equip our young learners with the STEM tools that will enable them to tackle these challenges in a solution-focused manner then our future challenges may well be overcome through the application of innovation and creativity grounded in STEM education.

My Department will continue to encourage links between further and higher education institutions and schools, to increase the interest of young people in Computer Science and give them the skills they need to succeed in the changing labour market.


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