Scaling out

Python squeezes out Java to be top learning language

Lucy Carey

8 out of 10 newbie devs are now getting their first taste of programming at uni with the multi-paradigm lingo.


No self respecting student  wants to be in Slytherin – but apparently plenty of technologically minded youngsters are embracing a snake of another sort. With a pleasingly terse syntax, emphasis on readability, and wide range of applications for projects of any scale, Python is a very nice beginner language. So nice in fact that, according to a recent survey posted by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the ABC successor is now the most widely taught introductory programming language in the states.

Among the top ten elite computer science departments in the USA, eight are now employing Python to initiate students into the mystic arts of coding, as well as 27 out of 39 leading institutions (69%), which, as computer science researcher Philip Guo notes, is a strong indicator that the language is the most popular language for teaching introductory computer science courses.

Although educators have increasingly been picking Python for their lessons in recent years, this is the first time that a survey has indicated that it is eclipsing Java on the curriculum. This is pretty significant considering that, for the past ten years, it’s been all about the Sun/Oracle platform. Guo also comments that, reflecting the explosion in Python’s popularity, Online Python Tutor (, a pet educational project of his own, has seen its usage “skyrocket”.

Java is a popular choice for high school teaching, so it’s generally a natural progression for IT majors to continue to develop their skills in this niche as undergrads. Increasingly though, more schools are offering Python as a supplement, or teaching Python for non-computing majors and Java for the rest. C and C++ are also still popular teaching aids, but are increasingly being taught alongside Python and Java.

Whilst this is a small scale study, it’s interesting to consider what impact this may have on the programming landscape in the next ten years or so as a new generation of Python loyalists emerges onto the job market and begin to found their own startups.

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