During a recent deliberation, we asked ourselves a question which we are often asked by parents seeking 21st Century Education for Children –
- Why is Learning Coding important for my child?
- Is it not too early for them to learn this?
The question reminds me of the time when I was growing up and Computer Education was seen with a similar lens. Being Computer educated was a luxury and only the elite schools would have computer labs.
In 2003, when I joined my college, I saw hoards of us joining private coaching classes to learn everything to do with computers – from basic operations to MS Office to C & C++. Almost 90% of us had either not seen or not used Computers. Although our college was one of the best-ranked engineering colleges in India and had an awesome computer center the problem was that a lot of us struggled with basics. And the curriculum did not assume incoming students to be Computer illiterate – after all, we were seen as the top quartile of the Indian Student population! The result was obvious – a disoriented lot, running like a headless chicken to figure out how to crack basics first before learning complex subjects like Microprocessors and its programming.
Now a leap to job markets – in the late 2000s and early 2010s, almost all jobs would advertise “Computer Knowledge Preferred”. From being a preferred skill, it has now become a basic hygiene factor in your CV for all entry-level white collar jobs and supervisory level blue collar jobs. In fact, a high school pass with excellent Computer skills is more valuable today than a college grad with no computer skills.
Cut to today, our current generation of learners in primary schools are again being made to go through the whole process again – almost being prepared to struggle & fail. 90% of schools do not give access to 21st Century Learning to their students.
The number becomes worse when we talk about the following two critical skills –
- Algorithmic Thinking
- Computational Thinking
A very small number of educators in India realize the importance of the above skills. In the West, these increasingly become hygiene knowledge subjects in schools. In developed communities like US, UK and most of Europe, graphical interface based coding programs are common for Primary Grade students. Coding programs are not meant to teach kids to write lines of codes – instead, these are designed to promote Algorithmic and Computational in learners. The programs like Scratch and Code.org help children break down complex instructions, ideate solutions and create them using simple algorithms. The result is a change in the way children approach a problem and think of solutions.
It is time that we wake up and see the challenge ahead. Coding is the new literacy – it is the basic skill of the future. It is the skill which will allow our children to thrive and excel in a world which will have Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence replacing most of the human drive jobs. Let’s make our children Coding Literate. #CodingIsTheNewLiteracy
( We at alphabyte-The Learning Terminal have been working on Algorithmic and Computational thinking programs for primary grade learners for some time now. I would be happy to interact, collaborate and implement new initiatives in this area, especially in the social impact space for lesser privileged children.)