In 2011, computer science was introduced as a subject in New Zealand high schools with a similar standing to subjects like physics, as part of a new set of education standards under the umbrella term "digital technologies."2 Since then, at least 150 teachers have increased their skill sets in order to teach these unfamiliar topics, and thousands of students have passed courses in programming and computer science topics.
This rapid introduction of radically new material has not been easy; as well as having to train teachers and develop new teaching material, during the transition students had to prepare for assessments that no other students had done before, and teachers who embraced the changes often had to work with school leaders who had little understanding of what computer science involves.
The following letter was published in the Letters to the Editor of the April 2014 CACM (http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2014/4/173227).
I keep reading about U.S. initiatives involving massively open online courses, or MOOCS, and computer science education in schools, as in Andrew McGettrick's Letter from the Chair of Education Board "Education, Always" (Feb. 2014) and Tim Bell's Viewpoint "Establishing a Nationwide CS Curriculum in New Zealand High Schools" (Feb. 2014). Here, I would like to point out the U.K. has had a distance-education university—The Open University, founded 1971—that has made ample use of appropriate technology and is well worth looking at if you want to benefit from a long-running, successful, high-quality system; for a condensed history of this so-called "University of the Air," see http://www.open.ac.uk/about/main/the-ou-explained/history-the-ou. I would also like to point to England's more recent but equally successful campaign called "Computing At School" to introduce and scale out teaching computer science for all schoolchildren; see http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/. All can likewise share quite a bit of useful experience there, too.
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