Coding is to be taught to children from the age of five from September but will it nurture the generation of coders the government is hoping for?
The much hyped scheme to make coding compulsory in UK Schools is coming into effect this year with George Osborne and Michael Gove pledging £500,000 ($820.000) to train teachers.
Changing the current computer literacy focused ICT program, emphasis will now be placed on learning to develop websites and apps with high hopes from the government that the UK will spawn a generation of coding mega-heads as a result. Proud to claim the UK as the first G20 nation to implement code on a national level, the government, as announced by Year of Code Executive Director Lottie Dexter on Newsnight will make coding as important as the 3 'R's'.
The new syllabus has been drawn up by teachers and experts from the British Computer Society (BCS) and the Royal Academy of Engineers with outside collaboration from Microsoft and Google. On face value the new program looks a lot more relevant to the current IT job market compared to the current focus on teaching office applications,such as Word and Excel.
There has been considerable criticism across the web against the Year of Code however and the initial PR roll-out has been dented badly by the resignation of advisor Emma Mulqueeny. Tweets are abound that Dexter the campaign leader is out of touch and Andrew Short's calls for the board to resign highlight it's own financial agenda describing "a cabal of private businesses looking for a government subsidy to ensure their future profits"
Former Epic Group CEO Donald Clark expresses doubts towards the effectiveness of teaching coding from such a young age writing in his blog, "Meaningful coding requires computational thinking and a grasp of maths and logic. Far from shoving this down the throat of 5 year olds, we should be leaving this until they are ready to cope, otherwise it will be an exercise in counter productive education, where more are ‘turned off than on’ by the experience"
Clark goes on to say that, "I’m not at all convinced that we have enough teachers with the coding and relevant teaching ability in our schools". The initial plans from the BSC are to train 400 'Master Teachers' to then go out and share the knowledge in schools. If this will be enough to realise the government's ambitions is yet to be seen.
Of course no one is saying outright that teaching code is a bad thing..Getting code to do what you want is bound to be fun and rewarding for our kids, even if they don't go on to be super-hackers. Europe-wide there is a forecast job shortage of one million for the digital sector so making moves to train up developers makes sense. It's good to imagine that at least some of the true pioneers to benefit from the system will resist the head-hunts from invested companies going on to do enormous amounts of good for the world.
image: © hackNY