U.S. Students Have Achieved World Domination in Computer Science Skills—for Now

Tekla Perry:

When the researchers tabulated the results, the U.S. students came out ahead in every category. U.S. seniors outperformed their peers overall; students from elite U.S. schools outclassed their counterparts at the other countries’ elite institutions; and the same was true for students at non-elite universities. (The differences among the scores of students in China, India, and Russia were not statistically significant, the researchers indicated.)

The study sets in relief an important but rarely mentioned point with regard to the sheer numbers of computer science graduates. U.S. universities graduate about 65,000 computer science students annually, compared with an annual total of 417,000 for institutions in the other countries studied. But those figures don’t tell the story of who will fill the most coveted slots at the world’s premiere tech companies. Loyalka and his collaborators note that the number of graduates supplied by China’s elite programs is approximately half the total number of graduates supplied by those in the U.S. India’s elite programs turn out only one-eighth the total number of graduates supplied by comparable U.S. schools)

The skills gap between the U.S. and the other countries studied is not a huge surprise (though the gap in performance is smaller at the elite schools), Loyalka told IEEE Spectrum. “CS departments and CS education in general have a longer history and are much more established in the United States than in China or India especially. A lot more is spent per student in the U.S. than in the other three countries. [But] given time and resources, the other three countries could catch up to the United States.”