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Google Blogger: Vietnamese HS Students Excelling At CS 291

An anonymous reader writes "A Google engineer visiting Vietnam discovered a large portion of Vietnamese high school students might be able to pass a Google interview. According to TFA (and his blog), students start learning computing as early as grade 2. According to the blogger and another senior engineer, about half of the students in an 11th grade class he visited would be able to make through their interview process. The blogger also mentioned U.S. school boards blocking computer science education. The link he posted backing up his claim goes to a Maryland Public Schools website describing No Child Left Behind technicalities. According to the link, computer science is not considered a core subject. While the blogger provided no substantial evidence of U.S. school boards blocking computer science education, he claimed that students at Galileo Academy had difficulty with the HTML image tag. According to the school's Wikipedia page, by California standards, Galileo seems to be one of the state's better secondary schools."
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Google Blogger: Vietnamese HS Students Excelling At CS

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  • by tjb ( 226873 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:18AM (#43267503)

    What does an HTML image tag have to do with computer science or being a good software engineer?

    Heck, I've been working as a professional software developer in the semiconductor industry for 13 years, can sling C, Matlab and various assembly languages all day long, and think I have a pretty good theoretical grounding, but I'm not terribly familiar with HTML or Java or PHP or whatever the cool kids are using these days (now get off my lawn). I mean, good for them and all, but it seems like a rather hokey standard to judge students by.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:22AM (#43267521)

    programming might become another minimum wage job with workers being a dime a dozen.

    I wouldn't worry about it...that's not the point of teaching programming that early. The point is that nearly all jobs of the future will require programming ability. Today, if you want specialized software for a specific area that requires other skills, you hire a programmer and train him/her on the domain. In the future, those kinds of specialized software will be written by people with domain training/expertise. But there will always be strictly programming jobs that require additional training beyond that given in high school. Granted, exposing kids to programming at an early age will allow kids who wouldn't otherwise realize that they love it or have a talent at it, but it won't drastically increase the number of programmers. I'm too lazy to find references, but there's been studies that show that less than 25% of the population is capable of enjoying working as a programmer.

    So yes, some of the jobs that are currently filled by programmers will go to people who wouldn't otherwise have been able to accomplish them. But there will be so many more jobs that require programming that it will more than even out.

  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:45AM (#43267629) Homepage

    Hmmm, I'm 44 so it was a while ago I was in HS. I recall there were three tracks when I went: vocational (shop, electricity, etc.,easy math, easy English, basic science, etc.), business (typing and whatever else you might study if your goal was to be a receptionist -- easy classes, essentially shop for girls (we were more sexist then)), or college track (various math classes, literature, foreign language, psychology, etc.).

    Now, granting that schools can be different, and maybe not all schools in the 80s did this, I would be really surprised if this has all gone away. I chose to not have kids so I wouldn't know from personal experience, but I could have sworn I heard someone bragging about how well their sprog did in AP something or other recently. The existence of an AP curriculum suggests to me that students are still tiered.

  • by Intropy ( 2009018 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:45AM (#43267631)

    It would help a lot if we respected blue collar labor more. Your plumber, your carpenter, your steel mill worker, and anyone who knows what the heck he's doing on a factory floor are skilled, valuable workers doing important things that have to be done. We need to stop treating high school like the only valid thing it does is train people for college. We don't have the college capacity, we don't have enough qualified students, and the job force doesn't have the need for as many students as we try to push through to university. Vocational high schools used to be a thing (probably still are some left).

  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @12:48AM (#43267643) Journal
    As far back as 1991 I went to "computer camp" - a two week long overnight camp for elementary school kids that was a charitable outreach from our local Army base. During those two weeks, we learned some BASIC and LOGO, did our very first "hello worlds" - and also did some nifty science-camp stuff, like making our own ice cream by hand (and thus learning how salt lowers the freezing point of water) and getting some hands on fundamentals in networking. (Oh token-rings, how we don't miss you.) All for the low low cost of free - although I think I did have to test into the camp.

    Not defending the US education's system's oversight in this area, but I bet if Google interviewed some kids at a US engineering high school, they'd have better results.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:04AM (#43267703)

    But I successfully passed a Google interview and got an offer letter.
    Not bad for a EE drop out who didn't take any CS classes. But to be honest, being a senior kernel dev for years probably helped.

  • by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:06AM (#43267709)

    The point is that nearly all jobs of the future will require programming ability.... In the future, those kinds of specialized software will be written by people with domain training/expertise

    This is such crap. You're just talking about flooding the workforce with coders who can't find jobs.

  • by Barlo_Mung_42 ( 411228 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:19AM (#43267749) Homepage

    My kid spends way too much time imo learning cursive. They make her do a lot of her work in both cursive and print which seems like a waste of time when the number of hours spent in class keep shrinking. They should be learning to type and print; forget about cursive.

  • by Barlo_Mung_42 ( 411228 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:24AM (#43267765) Homepage

    I think the No Child Left Behind push towards standardized testing pretty much made that go away. That and budget cuts with art and shop being trimmed way down or tossed out all together in many places.

  • by Bremic ( 2703997 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:29AM (#43267775)

    How many skilled programmers are willing to work in schools for the pay that is offered? It's a prime example of if we want kids to have access to knowledge in their schooling, then we need to attract teachers who can impart that knowledge.

    Unfortunately in the first world there seems to be a trend to offer as little as possible for education, figuring I suppose that if the next generation is uneducated they will be cheaper to employ.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:35AM (#43267795)

    Call me a cynic, but I don't think this story is what it seems to be.

    It wasn't more than a couple weeks ago that I read another Microsoft PR piece attempting to influence Congress into increasing the number of H1Bs they can use. For some reason this new story immediately made me think "You know, if Google was going to try getting more H1Bs, this is pretty much how I'd expect them to go about it."

    Google's just really ham-handed and ineffective when it comes to attempting to influence public opinion - witness Brin's bizarre "cell phones are emasculating" statement.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:47AM (#43267827) Homepage
    We don't respect blue-collar because in our minds that means uneducated rednecks. Seriously, try that attitude in NYC or Miami and see how far you get.
  • by Smauler ( 915644 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @02:06AM (#43267871)

    I'm not being elitist here (well, perhaps I a little)... but most people can't code. They can't be taught to code, save for in a very limited manner.

    The thing is... there are a billion people in china, and the same percentage will be able to code as are here.. You _cannot_ teach people to code if they cannot. It takes a slightly odd mindset, IMO.

    ergo... there are always going to be more coders, or those with aptitude to code in China than in the west. I think it's just something we're going to have to deal with.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @02:25AM (#43267937)

    This whole thing is disingenuous.

    That might have been acceptable to present as an interview question (before it was disclosed), but those kids would not have passed the interview process on a single question, nor would they have even passed the single session interview which used that question, if they took 45+ minutes to arrive at it.

    An interview session typically lasts 45 minutes in total, and the point of presenting the problem is to gauge the persons problem solving ability, and their ability to think in terms of their ability to apply CS tools to solve the problem optimally. Taking the full 45 minutes for a single solution would not cut it, even if they ended up with the optimal solution. If they knew the question because someone had leaked it to a jobs board, then immediately solved it optimally, then the immediate response of the interviewer should be to vary the premise to make it a related but slightly different problem. If they didn't solve it optimally, and the interviewer had them iterate on their solution to optimize it, that's the best possible outcome, as far as an interviewer is concerned, as it speaks to the persons thought processes and problem solving capability.

    They also would not have passed the educational bar. There are a lot of self-taught programmers who are brilliant at it, but who can not work on teams because they lack the common terminology for algorithms and so on. So they are able to solve a problem in isolation, but they are unable to communicate this information to their peers, and neither can they document it in such a way that a future engineer can pick up where they left off when changing requirements force an incremental update to the design. Without that critical communication, it's impossible to make minimum necessary changes to accomplish a goal, while remaining cognizant of the side effects. So there is typically a degree requirement, and from the fact that you have a degree, you are expected to know things like "big O" notation, and a set of 20-30 algorithms by name so that you recognize them when they are used in code you are later asked to maintain.

    It's great that he bought them a teacher for a year by pulling $1,200 out of his personal bank account, but this emphasis recently on Slashdot of trying to get everyone to be a programmer in elementary school is misguided and misses the fundamental point that you can not narrowly focus an early education and expect to have people come out of it with the ability to retrain in other careers should their career become obsolete.

  • by Intropy ( 2009018 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @02:31AM (#43267957)

    I didn't mean undervalued by pay. I meant undervalued by the education system, which goes hand-in-hand with lack of respect (again that's actual respect as in admiration not money). I suggest that we'd be better off if these sorts of trades were treated as worthwhile goals for a student instead of it being "college or nothing" in high school. College is great for some people. College is a waste of time for others. Not everyone is well suited to it, and we don't need as many college graduates as a percentage of population as we seem to want to educate.

    It's mildly ironic that the lack of respect causes fewer people to pursue those careers, which causes scarcity and thus the higher pay you mention.

  • by crutchy ( 1949900 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @03:09AM (#43268097)

    blue collar workers turn squiggles on paper into skyscrapers, which is certainly more respectable than the worthless stockbrokers who now work in those skyscrapers

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.