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Who wants to be a computer scientist? The computing aspirations of students in English secondary schools

Hamer, J. M.M., Kemp, P. E.J., Wong, B. ORCID: and Copsey-Blake, M. (2023) Who wants to be a computer scientist? The computing aspirations of students in English secondary schools. International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, 45 (12). pp. 990-1007. ISSN 2154-8463

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2023.2179379


Despite being in a digital age, there are ongoing concerns over the low numbers of young people choosing to study and work in computing – a pattern that broadly reflects other areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, such as physics. Furthermore, there is a lack of diversity in the population who study and work in computer science, especially by gender. This paper aims to determine the profile of students who are more likely to aspire to be computer scientists and provide insights into the key factors that shape their aspirations in this area. We draw on questionnaire data from 4,983 secondary school students in England, who have a higher-than-average uptake of GCSE Computer Science (a national exam taken by students at age 16). Amongst students who have chosen to study GCSE Computer Science, girls were 42 % less likely to aspire to be a Computer Scientist compared to boys. Amongst younger students yet to pick their GCSE options, there are significantly more girls wanting a career in digital art than boys, a difference not seen in the older population, where aspirations to digital art are broadly similar. Multivariate regression analysis identified 10 factors that were associated with aspirations to become a computer scientist. These include being a boy, of Asian ethnicity, currently studying GCSE Computer Science, having a parent in computing, as well as having higher “coding self-belief”, elevated levels of “family support” and aspiring towards “technical jobs”. Implications for practice and curriculum design are discussed.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Improving Equity and Inclusion through Education
ID Code:110561
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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