Dr Jo Watts, CEO and Founder of effini, looks at data education here in Scotland, the challenges it faces and how they can be tackled to bring data literacy to more learners
Data literacy is vitally important: not just in terms of the data community in Scotland, but across many professions. Data is present in so many aspects of the modern-day digital world yet often goes unnoticed. However, being able understand how data is used, and how to analyse, it is an incredibly useful skill, not just for those of us working in a ‘traditional’ data role.
So as data skills become more sought after, we need more people who are data literate. And for that, we need data education taught to more learners in Scotland. But why are we hearing many people talk about this, and yet we’re seeing slow progress? What’s stopping us from becoming world leaders in teaching data?
There are a series of challenges that must be addressed if we are to see the full potential of data education here in Scotland.
Our first challenge is a lack of resources and training for teaching data skills. Part of our work at effini has been addressing this by creating a set of resources that can be used by educators to teach data science. Ranging from understanding terminology and concepts such as data privacy, to an introduction into using the Python programming language, they are free to use.
The second challenge is deciding where and when data is being taught. Data is often taught as part of science or maths. However, it reaches much further, and is needed in a range of subjects. We need to gradually introduce it across the curriculum. For example, those studying business need a good understanding of how digital tools and data can help them, as well as understanding legal aspects around data.
Challenge three that needs to be addressed is making sure that the software and facilities are in place. Blockers to this can include a lack of skills or capacity to do so. We need the infrastructure of the schools and colleges to be able to manage these new and fast-changing approaches. Local authorities and schools need the funding so they can successfully have everything in place to allow students to learn.
Finally, we need to make sure that the way data is taught is that it needs to be accessible for everyone, such as people with visual or hearing impairments, or neurodiverse students. Whilst we are still at a starting point with tackling this challenge, great strides have been made. For example, the University of Edinburgh’s Data Education in Schools team has worked with a number of organisations to develop new British Sign Language glossaries for Computing Science, Data Science and Cybersecurity teams, making it much easier for deaf listeners to learn.
With its strong data community and the world’s first school level qualification in data science, the National Progression Award (NPA) for Data Science, Scotland has a fantastic opportunity to take the lead in creating and teaching data skills.
If you want to find out more about our data lessons you can find them here, and if you would like to know more about using or contributing to our resources, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.