Only about a quarter of teachers who teach computer science at Leaving Cert level have Teaching Council accreditation to teach the subject, new research has said.
A report from University of Galway found there was a perception in schools that other Leaving Cert subjects introduced in recent years, such as politics, were easier to roll out than computer science.
The research, which was funded by Google, found only 15 per cent of schools offered the computer science subject, which was first introduced on a trial basis in 2018.
The report said while there were about 140 teachers who offered computer science, only 34 were accredited to teach the subject by the Teaching Council. Researchers said this shortage of qualified teachers was a “barrier” to children in all schools having access to take the subject.
The research said there was a “low level of understanding of the importance of the subject”, among both students and teachers, and other courses were pushing it “off the timetable”.
There was a similarly low uptake of a coding course for Junior Cycle students, with 16 per cent of 728 schools offering it to students, it said.
The research said there was a “significant gender gap” in subjects at both Junior and Senior cycles.
Some 70 per cent of students who opted to study computer science for the Leaving Cert were boys, while 60 per cent of students who took the Junior Cycle coding course were boys.
Computer science was introduced as a trial in 40 schools in 2018, with more than 700 students sitting the subject for the first time during the Leaving Cert exams in 2020.
The research said “low levels of teacher confidence” to upskill and learn how to the teach the subject were also a barrier to more schools offering computer science.
Dr Cornelia Connolly, lead author of the report, said children needed to be taught about computers and technology at a younger age.
“While young people are often assumed to be ‘digital natives’ who can pick up computer skills with ease, the research indicated this is not the case,” she said.
“Young people have a high level of access to phones and smart technology, yet teachers report that their technical use and understanding of computers is much lower,” Dr Connolly said.
The University of Galway lecturer said it was clear the education system was “a long way off” being able to offer the computer science and coding subjects to all students.