Please Mind The Platform Gap: Taking H2 Computing

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By Faith Wan (23S02B)

2022 marks the year Raffles Institution welcomed its first batch of 25 H2 Computing students since 2005. While Computing may sound like a niche subject that caters to only the wildly talented—think hackers in black hoods as portrayed on the big screen, the subject is open to all (yes, even those with no programming experience!). 

H2 Computing is modelled after computer science courses in universities, and is designed to cover foundational areas of knowledge usually taught in the first year. 

What will I learn in H2 Computing?

As detailed in SEAB’s syllabus, H2 Computing encompasses 4 sections: Algorithms and Data Structures, Programming, Data and Information, and Computer Networks. 

The first two fall under the umbrella of ‘core fundamentals’ where students learn the basics of basics—starting from printing the classic “Hello, World”. From there, students will build their proficiency in the Python language.

The other two have more real-world applications. Students will be kept up to date with recent trends in the world of technology, through familiarising themselves with concepts from database management to how WiFi works.

The subject culminates in the A-Level examinations, where students will sit for a written paper, as well as a lab-based practical examination, each three hours long.

Homework comes in the form of written tutorials as well as coding assignments on a gamified platform, Coursemology. Apart from Python, students will also acquaint themselves with HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which will be used to build and implement web applications.

An example of what students may see in their notes.
Sample question from a class assessment.

Tutorials are conducted like every other subject, usually twice a week in one of the school’s computer labs. Students can look forward to increasingly challenging programming exercises, and even time-based mini-competitions.

Should I take H2 Computing?

There are no prerequisites and diagnostic tests needed to offer H2 Computing as a subject. “Those with zero coding experience will not be put on the back foot,” says Mr Lai Wai Liang, the sole tutor for H2 Computing with over 15 years of experience teaching the subject.

He likens coding to learning to cycle or swim, where one learns best by doing, struggling, failing and learning — over and over. While most students enter with anywhere from elementary to advanced proficiency in coding, beginners need not be afraid as content will be taught at a pace assuming zero knowledge.

“Some people learn and master the techniques faster than others. But all will get there if they are willing to put in the effort to practise,” Mr Lai notes. As opposed to raw skill, motivation and a willingness to learn beyond what is in the curriculum will bring students a lot further.

Because H2 Computing is not required for admission to any university course in Singapore, some may feel that following online tutorials and learning programming on your own leaves more options open. However, the structured syllabus of H2 Computing ensures all bases are covered and ensures students leave with not only proficiency in coding, but rather a well-rounded understanding about the basics of computer science. 

It is prudent to note that Computing is classed as a Science subject, and currently can only be offered with Physics, Mathematics and Economics. Though appeals for non-standard subject combinations can be made — several from this year include combinations with Geography, Chemistry and Knowledge & Inquiry — all but one (to offer H1 Economics instead of its H2 counterpart) were rejected.

Additionally, another point of consideration would be future career choices, or at the very least, career domains that one is willing to forgo. For students set on pursuing computer science post-JC, this subject definitely gives them a leg up. However, the decision not to offer Chemistry effectively closes the door to other courses like Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Science locally. 

Regardless of whether you are someone that derives joy from writing blocks of code, or a complete newbie looking to dip your toes into this field (or even someone looking for an alternative to Chemistry!), H2 Computing offers another exciting path one can embark on in RI.

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