Published on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 by Jesse Baxter
House Bill 5, a state law recently passed by the state Board of Education, is changing computer-science classes by making them count as foreign language credits beginning with the incoming ninth grade class. Despite the bill passing, the details have yet to be finalized by the board, but will be available soon.
While the classes will count towards high school graduation, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has yet to respond if these credits will count towards college admissions.
“Most colleges want to see at least two credits of the same language on a high school graduate’s transcript as part of their admissions criteria,” counselor James Henry said, “But this computer language thing is new, so right now I know it is going to apply to high school graduation, but I can not say with certainty that it will meet college admissions criteria yet.”
Though computer sciences will soon count as a foreign language, there are still advantages to learning a classical language.
“I wholeheartedly support students getting at least some exposure to those classic languages, but it is the 21st century after all and computer languages have been and continue to be a key part in the way our country does business and the way we operate as a global society,“ Henry said. “So having the opportunity for kids to study these computer languages and have it count towards high school graduation, I think it is a good move. It’s probably long overdue.”
Most agree that a technology class should count towards graduation in some way, however some argue that having computer science count as a language is the wrong way to approach education requirements.
“Honestly I don’t think [computer science] should [count as a language credit], but I would like to see some other avenue for it to count towards graduation because I don’t think enough people are learning about technology,” computer science teacher Jason Cordes said. “If you think about it, we are going to have a very large explosion of jobs that require technological skills between now and 2020, which is when this generation is looking at being in the job market.”
It is theorized that the general aim of this law is to increase enrollment in computer science and make it more useful to students.
“It seems like the main [goal of the law] is finding a way for computer science to become relevant in degree plans,” Cordes said. “In the past we’ve had computer science offered as a math credit, and the AP computer science does count as a fourth math credit if you have completed algebra II.”
With technology becoming more prevalent in the economy and workplace, it is important that students have a basic understanding of computers and other technology.
“We operate our businesses, economies, politics and, communications all with computers,” Henry said. “They are just an essential part of our experience, and so the state of Texas wants to make sure kids graduate from high school with at least some basic education in those languages.”
In terms of complexity, learning a classical language is different from learning to program computers.
“There is a certain amount of syntax and grammar involved to learning a programming language, but computer science is a lot more than just learning the language,” Cordes said. “You learn critical thinking skills and you earn problem solving skills that are very valuable.”
This change will impact certain students greatly while it will mean nothing to others, mainly those interested in using a foreign language in a career path.
“There are some students who might be planning on going into engineering, math, or science who may not be interested in a foreign language but they are very interested in the engineering aspect of it,” Cordes said. “Also, there are some students who deal better in social situations where they don’t have to communicate with other people, and this will allow them to communicate with a computer.”
This change could open the door for new opportunities for students, however those who are considering it should be cautious. Little is known about the details of the exact wording of House Bill 5, so it is important that any students considering this option get all the information before they make a choice.
“I am a little apprehensive [about the bill] because there might be people taking the class just to avoid taking other foreign language classes and thinking this may be an easier route,” Cordes said. “But I do hope and I am pretty sure I will get some very good students taking the class because of it, and it will be a great option for them.”