Foreign Language Requirement in Schools May Be Satisfied with Computer Programming


In Kentucky, students may be able to learn coding instead of a foreign language.

Legislation in the Kentucky Senate would let students use computer programming courses to satisfy foreign-language requirements.

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on a 10-1 vote last week in a move forward.

“This offers opportunity for students and flexibility for schools at a time when flexibility is vital,” Sen. David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg who is sponsoring the bill, told the Courier-Journal.

Under current requirements, students in Kentucky must earn 22 credits to graduate high school. 15 of these are in core categories such as math and science.

Colleges typically require students to have two credits of foreign language, Givens said.

About 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science as of 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics–despite a high demand in the job market and relatively high starting salaries of around $60,000.

“We’ve got to make room in the curriculum and in the electives to try and drive computer programming closer to the start of that student’s high school studies,” he said.

Computer science degrees peaked in the 2003-2004 school year, when they accounted for about 4.25 percent of all college degrees.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, an opponent and a Democrat, said that has things to discuss with Givens before publicly commenting on the bill.

In a separate measure in New Mexico, an Albuquerque state senator is pursuing a similar bill. 

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat, told the Albuquerque Journal that the bill could enable schools to teach more students the important skill.

“We still have work to do in figuring out how state government adapts to a very different world,” Candelaria said.

The bill would allow computer programming classes teaching codes such as JavaScript or HTML to satisfy the credit requirements that foreign languages now take up.

“Districts could still teach Latin, French or Spanish, but it provides the incentive for them to incorporate (computer) coding into their curriculum without it being an unfunded mandate,” Candelaria said.



  • George Rue

    sounds like a great idea to me. learning a 2nd language can be a waste of time. when you are just going to speak English your whole life anyway. and learning code will give you more chances in the working world.

    • Sarah Sahasbeen

      Are you planning to spend your entire life in one place and never meet another person outside of your inner circle? Learning a foreign language provides more benefits than just being able to understand another person’s language. It also helps you understand your own language. Learning computer language may help you in the working world, but it’s not going to do much in the real world where actual people live and interact. How many people do you think are going to communicate with you in computerese?

      • George Rue

        your reply doesn’t fit everyone’s life either, I know a good deal of a 2nd language, which I have no need for. Language is all relative to the area each person lives in. Like is said, learning a 2nd language isn’t needed for everyone, that’s what I’m saying. It shouldn’t be mandatory in schools. though English should be mandatory if that person lives in the US.

    • Laura Campbell

      You’re missing the point completely. Knowing other languages besides English is important when writing software used internationally. “Learning code” or learneing one computer language is just that. They change with the years and soon, you’ll be left behind. But a language, like Spanish relates to other languages so you pick up a bit of French and Italian and Portuguese. Those basic language skills will be with you all of your life.

  • Brandon Wise

    I’m all for giving students more exposure to technology and the opportunities it might create, but allowing a computer programming language to satisfy a foreign language credit is misguided. I work at a company who believes a major competitive advantage is the ability to localize our software — deploy anywhere in the world in the native language of the user. Without a multilingual workforce creating, testing, and selling this product would not be possible. I’m thankful my co-workers read and speak any number of languages. I wish I could far better than the sad amount of Spanish and French I know. Kentucky’s desire to give students a competitive edge through IT education is well-meaning, but the approach is short-sighted in the context of a global marketplace.

    • Denni A

      agree, they wouldn’t even need a teacher to teach a second language, there is software Rosetta Stone students could use. I had French and Latin when I was in high school but that was a long time ago, languages more relevant for today’s world would be Chinese and Spanish, imo.

  • HessenBalkan

    I’m torn on this one, I understand Kentucky wanting to give their students an advantage in the IT education. But from my own experience it’s so important to have at least a bit knowledge of a foreign language. Your chances in the work force improve, you are more confident when traveling, it’s just widens your horizon.

  • Greg

    The whole foreign language situation is a giant mess and a huge connundrum in the fact that there are two genuine problems with the entire approach. I say this having consulted with students and faculty first hand. One issue is that there are those who actively attempt to find ways to skirt the system such as counting a programming language, sign language, etc. as a foreign language. The reason I use the term skirt is because these courses were not what what was on the proponents minds when they developed the need for proficiency in foreign language. Particular departments (math/engineering/science) at several institutions have complained about lack of proficiency/dread from their students (also cutting cirriculum hours for degrees) and thus seek to kinda, sorta consider these as languages based on technicalities. Personally, I don’t blame them for trying. The second troubling reason is that most students will never meet the fluency required to truly be productive in the foreign language. Many students will never use the language anyway and it will indeed begin to fade rather quickly. To top it all off, upon entering college, many students detest the foreign language requirment and try to get around it, find the easiest language possible, or even cheat in some cases. All in all, FORCING someone to learn another language or culture at the cost of their time, money, and grades is one of the best ways to turn someone against embracing another culture. It simply counters what these programs are trying to do in the first place. I have seen much resentment when students grades suffer and they feel the foreign language is just there as some form of beurocracy. It should be an encouraged option, but an option and not a requirement.

  • Laura Campbell

    This could have been satire from the Onion. But it’s true. I have no words…


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