Helping to Close the Computer Science Education Disparity

I believe teaching is one of the most important yet challenging professions. A good and supportive teacher can have an immensely positive impact on a student, helping to ignite a lifelong passion for a particular subject.

I think of my own experience in high school. Two of my favorite classes were physics and chemistry. These classes relied on technical skills and computational thinking, along with experiments and hands-on activities that engaged me. I remember the thrill of seeing the pieces come together in my head and how that translated to our world. I felt a connection to the classroom and the material, all of which was made possible by teachers who made me feel like I belonged there and supported my excitement.

Of course, we are living in a different world from then. The pandemic has contributed to increasing stress among teachers. It has had a similar effect on students and has likely exacerbated many of the disparities and hardships that already existed in education.

Next week kicks off Computer Science Education Week, which is aimed at inspiring students to “learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field.”

With education, we often focus on students. However, I think we are doing a disservice to our teachers if we keep our focus too narrow. It is, after all, our teachers who are at the center of a learner’s experience — particularly in fields that are not usually a part of core courses, such as computer science.

Despite computer science being foundational to many jobs today — and especially the jobs of tomorrow — only about half (51%) of public high schools in the U.S offer at least one foundational computer science course, according to data compiled by the Code.org Advocacy Coalition, Computer Science Techers Association, and Expanding Computing Education Pathways. This is up from 47% last year, but still means nearly half of public high schools in the U.S. are not offering basic computer science courses.

What’s more, disparities persist. This is particularly the case in rural and urban schools, and schools with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Also, only three out of 10 high school students currently enrolled in foundational computer science classes are female.

It’s up to all of us to take action to address the computer science education disparity.

Support for the Computer Science Teachers Association

I’ve admired the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) for a long time. It is a community of computer science teachers led by educators that share the latest best practices in K-12 computer science education across the U.S. and Canada. Not only are they focused on creating a strong environment to support K-12 educators, they’re also committed to equity in their community and for the students these educators serve.

Specifically, SAP is supporting CSTA’s Computer Science Honor Society, a program that will award funding to local community projects that encourage elementary, middle, and high school students to explore computer science and learn about pathways outside of the classroom. The focus is bringing this computational thinking off the screen and into the real world.

In a recent Instagram Live, I spoke with Jen Rosato, 2021 CSEdWeek Committee Chair and Past Chair, CSTA Board of Directors, about the importance of building community and how we as individuals can all support computer science education and teachers. The perspective Rosato was able to share was both insightful and valuable, and I encourage you to check out the conversation here.

Support for NAF

NAF is a network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure high school students are college and career-ready. SAP has partnered with NAF since 2016, and in that time, we have collaborated on a number of workforce readiness and IT pathway support programs, impacting approximately 500,000 students across the U.S.

In 2021, we continued the partnership by supporting a key initiative: The Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) Curriculum Collaborative Lab. There are currently 115 computer science of IT pathways within the NAF network. This incredible group of computer science teachers are creating and piloting new computer science content as it is developed. Examples of this work include NAF’s Passport to Tech and Passport to Engineering Expeditions, which inspire students to imagine innovative solutions to real-world issues in partnership with career experts. Topics covered include space, artificial intelligence (AI), eco-tech, virtual reality, creative coding, and user experience (UX). The program is built around one underlying premise: that it will help students better connect with the content.

Building Partnerships for the Future

There is plenty of work to be done, and our work does not stop with these two impactful programs. Other organizations making an impact in the field of computer science we’re proud to be supporting include Ignite Worldwide, Jobs for the Future, four early college high schools that SAP has been supporting for nearly a decade, and 100Kin10. We’re also proud to be advancing data science with the 49ers in a new partnership we announced this year.

As a major technology company dependent on software development, SAP has a duty and vested interest in preparing the future workforce, particularly in this field.

Technology is changing incredibly fast, and society becoming more reliant on it. If computer science is not accessible to every student, and if we’re not building bridges between computer science educators and the people using this technology every day, we will have a workforce wholly unprepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

One of our most fundamental corporate social responsibility goals is to ensure this outcome never comes to fruition.


Katie Booth is head of SAP North America Corporate Social Responsibility.