Microsoft pledges $10M to Code.org to expand computer education

For Computer Science Education Week, Microsoft is re-upping a commitment to help Code.org get tech education into more schools.

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Code.org wants to make sure students are exposed to computer science in the classroom.

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Microsoft has committed $10 million by 2020 to Code.org, a nonprofit that works to spread computer science education in K-12 schools across the US.

"When students engage in computer science, they are not just learning to code to become future software engineers. They are also developing creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will prepare them to thrive in the future workforce," Microsoft said in a statement Monday at the start of Computer Science Education Week.

Beyond kicking in cash, Microsoft has also been helping Code.org advocate on federal and state levels to get computer science recognized as a modern academic field, said Hadi Partovi, CEO of Code.org.

Among its efforts, Code.org organizes the Hour of Code, an introduction to coding that's highlighted annually during Computer Science Education Week. Hour of Code, which is actually available year-round and worldwide, offers the chance to "learn the basics and to broaden participation in the field of computer science," according to Code.org's website.

On Monday, Microsoft also released a survey done in partnership with market researcher YouGov, which gathered data from 540 K-12 teachers in the US.

The survey found that 88 percent of teachers say computer science is critical to their students' future success in the workforce. However, 60 percent said computer science isn't part of their school's curriculum. What's more, 30 percent of teachers see themselves as under-qualified to prepare their students for a "digital future," and 20 percent described themselves as overwhelmed by the idea of preparing kids for that future.

If most schools don't offer computer science, Partovi said, kids won't have a chance to find out if they're passionate about. That's particularly worrisome given that schools in poorer areas are already less likely to offer computer science.

"It's not about turning your kid into an engineer. It's about giving your kid an opportunity to even discover if they like it," he said.

Microsoft sites a statistic that more than three-fourths of jobs in the not-so-distant future will require tech skills. And as for straight-up tech jobs, they're some of the fastest-growing, highest-paid positions out there, according the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Partovi also noted that people tend to look toward the tech industry to solve two problems: the future of jobs in the age of automation, and the lack of the diversity among tech workers.

The companies that support Code.org's mission are "addressing both those problems by systematically helping change the education system to give every student a pathway ... to get the jobs of the future and also make sure diversity is baked in to how it's taught," Partovi said.

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