4.5.8 Python compared to Pascal

The general reaction to the course was extremely favourable. When asked to compare Pascal and Python 75% of students expressed a preference for Python. This could be due in part to the Solaris environment which, although not as consistently well-designed as the NeXTStep environment, is undoubtedly more modern looking and probably more Windows-like.

However, the comments made by students during the trial and at the end of the questionnaire did explain specific reasons for preferring Python. The most common reason was its syntax. It's lack of semi-colons to end lines was a recurring point made in Python's favour by the students.

Student's appreciation of minor syntactic differences to Pascal like the lack of semi-colons seemed to be a manifestation of a more general increase in understanding offered by Python's improved readability. For many students the computing practical is the part of the course they least understand and, as a result, least enjoy. The relative lack of inexplicable syntax seems to result in increased understanding and enjoyment of the course and meant they could spend more time on problem decomposition and algorithmic details, and less on the details of programming.