Pictured: Joyce Borges and Dr Clare McInerney, Lero, and Prof Oliver McGarr, UL

Computer Science struggles with image problem at Leaving Cert level

Computer Science still dogged by negative stereotypes
Pictured: Joyce Borges and Dr Clare McInerney, Lero, and Prof Oliver McGarr, UL

15 April 2024

Debunking misconceptions that Computer Science at Leaving Cert is only for “brainy” students and “nerds” is vital to attracting more pupils to the subject according to a study by software research centre Lero and University of Limerick.

Researchers who conducted a four-phase in-depth qualitative study interviewing fifth and sixth-year students from four schools, found that students believed Computer Science is suitable for all students and not just those perceived as “brainy”. 

Since the introduction of the subject in 2018, the subject is now taught in 145 secondary schools.




One of the study’s authors, Lero’s Prof. Chris Exton, a lecturer in the Dept of Computer Science at UL, said debunking these beliefs is essential to encourage more students to engage with and promote a more realistic view of Computer Science as a school subject and a career. 

“The commonly held belief that Computer Science was a subject for ‘nerds’ was challenged by students, with the majority of students claiming the subject is for everyone, regardless of gender, previous experience or abilities. These findings contradict the popular conception that Leaving Cert Computer Science is suitable for a specific group of people with specific interests,” he said.

Lero education & public engagement programme manager Dr Clare McInerney added: “As our study has found, it is a subject that promotes creativity, enables student collaboration, and achieves many of the essential learning outcomes required in the 21st century. Therefore, it is a unique vehicle to achieve many of these educational goals regardless of whether a student decides to pursue a career in this area. For that reason, framing it as an essential skill for all, rather than being part of the STEM portfolio of subjects may prove more advantageous in the long run.”

“Students’ experiences of the subject are very positive in relation to the way it is taught and the opportunity for creative and collaborative work. However, negative and inaccurate stereotypes are still present, as well as a wider lack of understanding of what Computer Science entails and a lack of appreciation of its wide application in all aspects of society,” said Prof. Oliver McGarr from the School of Education at UL.

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