Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Updating the CS Curriculum: Traditional vs. Market-Driven Approaches

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Updating the CS Curriculum: Traditional vs. Market-Driven Approaches

Article excerpt

Introduction

Today, the demand for skilled people who can create, apply and use Information Technology (IT) goes beyond tradition, cutting across manufacturing and services, transportation, health care, education and government (Mitchel, Carnes, & Mendosa, 1994). IT offers many young people high-paying jobs with amazing opportunities for advancement in a career.

Recent studies show there are now 350,000 unfilled computer-related jobs in USA and that another 200,000 new jobs will be added to that number each year. These numbers are expected to grow by 70% over the next five years (O'Brien, 1998). In another study, conducted by Coopers and Lybrand (Trendsetter, 1996), nearly half the CEOs of America's fastest growing companies reported that they had inadequate numbers of information technology workers to staff their operations.

Shortage in the IT arena puts enormous pressure on colleges and universities to prepare students for future job markets and to expose them to a broad range of technologies and methods. Business today needs college and university graduates to make an impact immediately and become productive employees or to hit the ground running, almost immediately after joining the company (Musthaler, 1997). These institutions must provide students with the knowledge, problem-solving skills, and tools needed for a successful career start.

However, the number of students actually pursuing computer-related degrees in the USA is down dramatically compared to ten years ago. Recent studies also show significant increases in contract and temporary employment. Companies are trying to cut the costs by hiring skilled people on a temporary basis to handle the current problems, upgrades or expansions the business is facing. These temps include experienced university professors and university students, (Stanford Computer Industry Project Software, 1998). In contrast to the situation in the USA, the number of students registering every year in the Computer Science Department at University of Bahrain (UOB) is steadily rising. Every year more and more young people are trying to enter the College of Science and are choosing courses in the Computer Science Department. Once they graduate holding their B.Sc. and M. Sc. degrees in computer science, they have high expectations for challenging careers and high-profile positions in Bahrain or other GCC countries where market demand in IT skills is high.

With the full support from the government of Bahrain, the University, and College top officials, the Computer Science Department is trying to cope with this situation, updating curricula to serve the community better using all available human and other resources to prepare students for the future.

CS Department at UOB

The Computer Science Department at the University of Bahrain was established in 1988 following the merger of the Gulf Polytechnic and the Bahrain College for Art, Science, and Education. Prior to this date, the Electrical Engineering Department at the Gulf Polytechnic was offering a B.Sc. in computer science. The Computer Science Department is now part of the College of Science at the University of Bahrain and it offers B.Sc. degrees and, starting from September 1999, M. Sc. degrees in computer science. The Department now has an average of 600 students majoring in computer science. Each semester an average of 50 students graduate and they are seeking jobs in computer companies, government ministries, and in the education sector in Bahrain and in the Gulf area. They work as programmers, systems analysts, system administrators, DP managers as well as seeking to set up their own companies.

The Department has nine computer labs equipped with Pentium type PC's and a number of highly advanced UNIX workstations. All machines in all labs are linked to the departmental network and to the university wide network. Internet access is also provided to both academic staff and students. …

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