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March 21, 2013 / Ben Chun

CS in VN Errata

This fascinating look into CS education in Vietnam from Google engineer Neil Fraser has been making the rounds. It sounds like he did some great work over there and it’s wonderful to hear a first-hand report about a system that’s more successful than ours.

There are, however, a few places where he makes comparisons to the US that aren’t correct. I know, because I was the computer science teacher he visited here in San Francisco. Here’s what he writes:

A couple of visits to San Francisco’s magnet school for science and technology (Galileo Academy) revealed grade 11 and 12 students struggling with HTML’s image tag. Loops and conditionals were poorly understood. Computer Science homework was banned by the school board.

First, Galileo isn’t a magnet school. It’s a comprehensive public school with no admission criteria and the same graduation requirements as all SFUSD schools. It happens to have one of SFUSD’s three AP CS programs, but there’s no specific structural support for science or technology.

Second, When Neil visited my classroom in 2009, he spoke to a 10th grade class partway through their first semester of CS. It’s true that some of them struggled with his lesson on doing script injections of an IMG tag to a web form. Others got it fine.

Finally, CS homework is not banned by the school board. I don’t know if they even have the authority to do such a thing. My AP CS students may have wished otherwise, but they certainly had homework.

I want to be clear that my position here is not that US computer science education is in a good place. However, I think we should strive to be accurate and clear in talking about what the situation and the challenges are.

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