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Should Big Data Skills Be Taught in K–12 Classrooms?

A new report recommends that schools begin preparing students to think like data scientists at an earlier age.

The skills necessary for the data analytics jobs of tomorrow aren't being taught in K–12 schools today, according to a new report released by the Education Development Center, Inc.'s (EDC) Oceans of Data Institute.

The Profile of the Big-Data Enabled Specialist projects a workforce shortage for data-driven positions. Based on a 2011 McKinsey & Co. report cited by the Oceans of Data Institute, ”By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

The Oceans of Data Institute has created an occupation skills profile, which identifies the characteristics necessary to be successful in Big Data professions. This profile was created with input from more than 150 data professionals, including experts from Google, Microsoft, NASA, universities, leading businesses and government agencies.

The profile can be used by educators and policymakers to “understand the specific skills and behaviors that need to be cultivated and emphasized in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms,” according to the report.

Key skills needed by a Big Data specialist include:

  • The ability to define problems and articulate questions
  • The ability to develop deep knowledge of data sources
  • The ability to develop methods and tools
  • The ability to stay current on emerging technologies, data types and methods

The shortage cited by the report aligns with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projection of a massive shortage in the IT workforce by 2020. According to the agency, there will be 1.4 million openings but only 400,000 computer science graduates with the necessary skills to fill the positions.

AndreyPopov/ThinkStock
Dec 30 2014

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