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National Models of CS Education

While in Costa Rica running an Alice workshop at the Foundacion Omar Dengo (see my earlier blog posting), Alberto J. Canas came to the foundation to give a talk entitled "Creating an identity-based infrastructure that fosters learning and collaboration: Experiences with Project Connect to Knowledge in Panama." He described his experiences with helping to run a 2 or 3-year project in Panama. This project in Panama received a great deal of government funding in 2006 to get computers and networking equipment for schools throughout Panama. There may also have been some money available for teacher professional development. However, when the government changed in 2008, the new government wasn't interested in technology and technology education in K-12, and killed the program. And, it sounds like the use of technology in Panama has largely died down in K-12 over the past 3+ years. (I don't think the Panamanians actually seriously integrated computer science into the K-12 curriculum, but I'm less confident about this last statement.)

I compare what happened in Panama with the computer science/technology education program in Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, the K-12 computing program has grown much slower than it did in Panama, and over a period of 25 years rather than 2. I get the impression that funding for computers and teacher professional development isn't at risk in Costa Rica. Talking with the Project Development and International Relations Officer from the Omar Dengo Foundation, I learned that the Foundation has survived several changes of government, and while nervous with each change, the longstanding establishment of computing education as a value in K-12 education in Costa Rica has always led to continued funding of the foundation's efforts.

I think of many of the recent K-12 CS education efforts in the US. I wonder if we are behaving more like Panama and less like Costa Rica. I hope that we all will think more strategically and longer term, as we hope to change the role of CS education in the K-12 arena in the US and in the rest of the world.

Steve Cooper
Chairperson, CSTA Board of Directors

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