Coding should be compulsory at schools

Australia will make coding a compulsory subject for primary school children.Training experts say South Africa needs to follow in Australia’s footsteps and introduce compulsory coding for school children, to address the IT skills shortage.

The Australian government recently endorsed a new school curriculum that makes coding and programming classes compulsory for children as young as eight.

Training specialist Moira de Roche says South Africa should absolutely introduce similar legislation. “We need to demystify programming at the earliest possible age. I think many kids avoid computing because they think it is too hard, or simply beyond them because they have no real knowledge of what it is about (especially those from disadvantaged communities who are less likely to have parents in the IT field).”

De Roche was aware of the legislation, as she works with an international learning group whose chair is an Australian.

Camille Agon, co-founder of WeThinkCode, says: “Learning how to code is also critical to understand and live in this new economy and society in which we live in and where digital is everywhere. Code is how you address computers and robots. If you don’t want to be obsolete and blindly dependant on technology, you will need to learn how to code. This is true for children and for adults.”

“Apart from the obvious benefit of getting more children interested in a career of IT, teaching coding has spin-off benefits such as learning logical thinking and problem-solving,” says De Roche.

She believes the move might see the end of the emphasis on needing maths to study IT at university: “We don’t have many good maths teachers in this country, so the pool of entrants with maths is quite small. If we have kids with programming and coding skills at a young age, then this should aid their entry into tertiary.”

Overcoming obstacles

De Roche says an objection that could come up is a shortage of primary school teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills to teach the subject. “However, I don’t see this as a barrier at all. There are lots ofresources on the Internet, and once the kids get the hang of it, they will more or less teach themselves (certainly teach the teacher).”

ICT veteran Adrian Schofield says teaching coding in schools may be too abstract as it will need to be contextualised to be of value.

“I am not sure that teaching coding will achieve the desired results. I am also concerned the subject will apparently replace history and geography in the Australian curriculum – both of those subjects are important to give young people a sense of time and place.

“Learning coding (presumably using a specific language) may well be a useful foundation, as would learning any other language (isiZulu, French, Chinese) – providing it continues to be used as the student progresses through life. If not in ongoing use, the value will fall away (as happened with the Latin I learned in my school days).”

Schofield does, however, believe school children need to learn how to use technology.

Source: ItWeb.co.za


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