Comments on the Lectures in the Department of Core Computer Science in Technical University of Kaiserslautern and Department of Applied Computer Science in University of Applied Science of Kaiserslautern at Zweibrücken (part two)

This blog is the unfinished part I wrote on Feb. 7th.

I’m not saying strong mathematic background and fundamental theory of computation are not important. Quite the opposite, truth is that they are essential, even for the most mundane, “stepped” computational tasks. All programs eventually talks to machines, no matter how high-level the programming language is. Machines don’t process information quite the way we humans do. Humans are so advanced, our logic can be fuzzy, we have great intuitions in various occasions. But machines can only process things in a stricktly mathematicised way. The logic which machine can understand and process has to be precise. For the time I’m blogging this piece, no matter how advanced a computer is, it is in fact a super Turing Machine in nature. That’s why all the greatest computer scientists strive to formalise everything to make our complex real-world machine-processable. IT field is constantly changing. I’ve seen way too many developers, who didn’t have a formal education in computer science, killing themselves to learn the newly popped technologies to make themselves marketable. However, whatever the trendy technologies are, there’s always something static behind the scene. Real computer scientists understand the way a technology abstracts things, can recognise a technology’s math pattern, can evaluate how effetively a technology can reduce the entropy of certain problem domain. I didn’t do spectacularly in the theoretical courses in TU KL, but the very humble things I was forced to learn did pay off. At least I don’t have panic towards the highly dynamic trends.

But the questions in pedagogy are certainly there: How much theory is enough for undergraduate students? How far should undergraduate students go into theory? How much time for programming should undergraduate students trade for pure theory? Each semester TU KL would have 200-300 freshmen in the CS department. Do the faculties really care about how many of them want to be theoreticians, how many of them want to become disdinguished IT engineers, how many of them want to become just a good IT engineers? And, has the faculty done the research about how many theoreticians do industries really need?

The CS department of TU KL has most fabulous and honourable professors, splendid Hardwares like really bulky servers with the names of IBM and SUN, students can have monthly hundreds of sheets printed for free and many other dreamy resources….All of these are undoubtedly huge invest from the generous German government. Each semester 200-300 freshmen, how many can get graduated then? In one of the semesters during my staying there, I was impressed by this number: 7. Only seven can eventually get graduated. That semester was a bit extreme, normally the number is between 10-30 for each semester. I guess that’s definitely something worth being proud of: We raise only elites. 😀 But wait a minute. If only there were less mission-impossible-like exams on theories, how many more students could survive and how much more productive the department can be? As I know Germany has been importing IT developers from India, in my opinion that’s no need, if only some universities could try to make more out of their educational resources. Many German young people do have interest in IT field, maybe not everybody is ready to study hard (CS does need hard study), but from the teachers’ side, at least, encouragement is definitely more welcomed than frustration and depression. When study becomes hurting, what could one expect then? IT developers are still in high demand in the near and/or far furture, showed by the number of green card applications from India, Indian developers are not passionate about Germany. Time to count on sich selbst. Schools like TU KL doesn’t have to sacrifice any academic rigour, please just be a little bit more considerate and merciful to learners, that’s enough. For example, in the CS department in University of Ulm, students are allowed to look up scripts in theoretical exams. Trust me, no matter how merciful the instructors are, there would always be truly lazy students be filtered out.

I felt much better when I transferred to the UAS KL at Zweibrücken…

(to be continued)

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