Certification Survey Extra: Government and cybersecurity, Part 2

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Certification Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Certification Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.

Should public education include cybersecurity education? And what is the proper role of government in bringing that to pass?There are quite a few opinions floating around regarding the proper role of government in determining public education curriculum. It’s been a contentious issue for as long as governments and public education have existed, and is likely to be a subject of debate as far into the future as we can reasonably project the survival of the human race.

Appeals to government are perhaps most often made when a critical mass of the citizenry — which, surprisingly frequently, is not the same thing as a majority of the citizenry — agrees that this or that important subject is not being taught correctly, or not being taught to a sufficient degree, or not being taught from the proper perspective, etc.

In the current societal climate, most people would probably agree that cybersecurity is an important topic. Our lives are increasingly intertwined with computers, computer networks, and computer data storage, and a large part of the responsibility to secure and protect all of those things resides in the individual. It’s up to each of us. And our children — who first encounter and begin to use computer technology at a very young age.

The obvious benefit of more proactively teaching cybersecurity in public schools is that kids would learn and understand the role that all of must play, as well as develop good security habits, much sooner than might otherwise be the case. A key secondary benefit, however, is that more children might take an active interest in cybersecurity and eventually choose to pursue it professionally.

Given the worldwide shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals — it’s estimated that there could be as many as 2 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs just in the next three years — the value of exciting young minds about cybersecurity career prospects can almost not be understated.

Taking all of that into account, should governments make more of an effort to layer cybersecurity into public education curriculum? Should they go so far as to mandate its inclusion? We put both questions to the certified security professionals who participated in our recent Security Certification Survey. Here’s what we learned:

Statement 1: Government should aggressively promote cybersecurity curriculum in public education.

Strongly Agree: 44.5 percent
Agree: 37.5 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 13.6 percent
Disagree: 2.2 percent
Strongly Disagree: 2.2 percent

Statement 2: Government should mandate cybersecurity curriculum in public education.

Strongly Agree: 31.1 percent
Agree: 28.8 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 24 percent
Disagree: 11.2 percent
Strongly Disagree: 4.9 percent

Bearing in mind that we’re speaking to people who engage is cybersecurity pursuits for a living, there’s still a remarkable level of consensus here. Especially when we ask whether government should simply make a concerted effort to get cybersecurity into public education curriculum. Not even 5 percent of respondents disagree, and only 13.6 percent would prefer to punt.

Everyone else either agrees (37.5 percent of those surveyed) or strongly agrees (44.5 percent) that government should get this ball rolling. It’s interesting to note that, while most people, at least in theory, resent the notion of a government’s telling them what to do, even switching from “aggressively promote” to “mandate” only dampens enthusiasm somewhat.

If we’re talking about government putting its foot down, then 16 percent of respondents disagree, and the number of people punting on the question shoots up almost a full quarter of those surveyed. Even here, however, we’ve got 60 percent of survey takers expressing either agreement (28.8 percent of respondents) or strong agreement (31.1 percent) for direct intervention.

Whether or not cybersecurity does, in fact, become an important part of public education in the near future, there are certainly people who’d like to have their elected representatives pushing the issue.

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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