Category Archives: Education

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Should All School Children be Taught to Code?

Governments across the world are slowly waking up to the fact there aren’t going to be many jobs in the future which don’t involve a computer, or, given the pace of Robotics research, there might not be many jobs at all.

In response to this looming crisis, the UK government has decided to introduce mandatory software development lessons for all school children.

The problem is twofold:-

  1. Most people find software development intensely boring. The reason we are geeks, is normal people just don’t find fiddling with bits of code interesting. If you aren’t the kind of kid who enjoys spending hours building sophisticated model train sets or model airplanes, doing complex puzzles, or creating your own board game, you just haven’t got the mindset to code – it is not about whether you are smart, it is just that you will fall asleep from boredom before you learn anything useful.
     
  2. Governments and their advisors have no real idea what software development is, and have no idea how to teach it to others.

The tragedy is this desire to teach kids coding skills is motivated by a genuine concern for the future welfare and job prospects of the nation’s school children.

I have a few suggestions for politicians who want to help kids develop coding skills

  1. For pity’s sake, do not make the software lessons mandatory. By all means *expose* kids to a few coding classes, but allow the 99% of kids who find software coding intensely boring to drop out. Don’t poison their desire to be educated by adding what for most of them will be an unendurably monotonous subject to the list of courses they have to pass.
     
  2. Teach the handful of kids who are interested coding skills which are likely to be relevant – teach them to build Android Apps and iPhone apps.

    I am not suggesting iPhone apps or Android apps and phone handsets in 20 years time will be the same as they are today – they will be radically different. But at least start kids on the right path.
     

  3. Make it interesting – get kids to code and own apps which might actually make money. If a 14 yr old kid can create a world beating iPhone app, then anyone can – the very next app your kid codes could make millions of dollars.
     

My suggestions might not solve the looming future jobs crisis – but forcing kids to study something they can’t stand is not a solution either. In any case, there is reason to be optimistic about the future – many issues which in the past were seen as an urgent crisis rapidly solved themselves. Human ingenuity will solve this problem, just as it solved all the other problems we have ever encountered.

I refer interested readers to Scott Adam’s law of slow moving disasters.

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