Editor’s note: Commentary from the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
This week, I was delighted to kick-off my second computer science coding tour at Arkansas high schools. I went to Benton, Bryant, Manila and Spring Hill. Next week, we’ll continue the tour.
At the start of each assembly, I asked the audience a simple question: How many of you are interested in taking computer science? Only a smattering of hands were raised from the audience, and I knew immediately how important it was for me to be there. My goal was to reach those students who hadn’t raised their hands. Once they heard what computer science was all about and how they could use it to create something new, I got a very different response. When I asked the same question at the end of the presentation, the number of hands tripled.
This year’s coding tour is a chance for me to tell students directly that exciting opportunities in computer science and coding are real and available to them. It’s about helping students discover professions within these fields and learn to speak the language of 21st century innovation: computer coding.
Every aspect of education is important, and computer science is just one more way our students can engage with the world around them. Whether you want to be the next Steve Jobs, design video games, create security software, or start your own business, learning to code will help you get there.
Part of being successful is about being able to communicate effectively. This is why communicating in code to maximize what computers can do is giving coders a competitive advantage. It’s a numeric language that speaks directly to computers, and anyone can learn.
With the help of the General Assembly, I initiated the first effort in the nation to mandate computer science in every high school. But here’s the thing, students aren’t required to take the class. That is why it’s so critical that we continue to raise awareness for our students, parents and guidance counselors about these exciting opportunities. These classes give our students a chance to explore the exciting world of coding, while also earning credit that counts towards graduation.
My mission as governor is not only to create jobs and grow Arkansas’s economy, but to put our students ahead of the competition. We’ve taken a bold step onto the national stage with this initiative, but the most exciting part is that we’re just getting started.
In just one year, Arkansas saw a 260 percent enrollment increase of students taking computer science in high school. Just imagine what that number would look like in another year or two when every day, more students, teachers and businesses are seeing the benefits of computer science education.
And it’s slowly, but surely, putting Arkansans on the cutting edge of the computer science movement.