5 March 2019

Code Club at UKFast - teaching children coding skills

A Code Club session at UKFast – teaching children coding skills from as young as five years old.

Would you refuse to teach your children how to speak because the language may change and evolve during their lifetime? Of course not!

It is for this very reason that I was so dumbfounded to read that the director of education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Andreas Schleicher, said that teaching children to code is a waste of time.

What a dangerous headline! We’re finally seeing parents’ and young peoples’ attitudes towards careers in tech changing. The potential for young people to have a successful and fruitful career in technology is huge, particularly when they are learning coding in their early educational years.

Yes, of course, the language changes and evolves over time. It’s inevitable. However, the foundations and basics of the skill remain the same. Through learning coding, whatever the specifics, children are developing essential problem-solving skills. They’re learning the thought patterns that evolve with the specific technologies.

Schleicher said: “You teach it to three-year-olds and by the time they graduate they will ask you ‘Remind me what was coding’. That tool will be outdated very soon.”

Whilst I agree that this is a very real possibility, the fact remains that the behaviours and techniques learned along the coding education journey will stand the test of time. No matter how technology evolves, it will always need some level of human intervention to drive innovation and carry out maintenance.

Communication

Coding is a form of communication. Just as written language and speech evolves, the principles of communication remain the same. Can you teach children how to speak without teaching them a specific language? It’s a bizarre, impossible concept!

At our school holiday Code Clubs, we teach children as young as five years old how to code, using Python. I don’t expect that they will be using Python when they enter the working world. Why? Simply because of the extraordinary pace of change in the industry. However, the basics, the thought patterns, will remain the same.

Ultimately, whilst these comments may make headlines and drive conversation around coding skills, the impact is unnecessarily negative. At a time when the majority are pushing the fly wheel to encourage young people into coding and computer science to ensure the future industry has skilled people it needs, comments like this are actually pushing in the wrong direction.

In the real world, coding skills are an essential part of setting young people on a positive track for a career in tech.

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