Coding is one of the key skills that kids need to learn in 2017. Why? Well, as the internet & tech grows more and more prominent in every aspect of our lives, a basic understanding of coding and the mechanics of websites will be as important to future generations as reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Many people think that Britain therefore needs to get our children coding early to develop skills and ensure that our creative and digital industries remain amongst the best in the world. There is a strong overlap between digital skills and our wonderful creative industries, one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy, and a section in which the UK is an undoubted world beater.
In short, building digital skills will undoubtedly boost the creative industries! Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital & Culture, agrees that British kids need digital skills:
"To survive and prosper in a digital world it's vital that young people in Britain learn not just how to use computers, but how they work. They need to get under the skin and really understand the technology that is all around us and increasingly defines the jobs of the future. For some this will help deliver the very top-end skills for which there's a real shortage. But it's important for all to know how coding works, so they can reach their potential in every walk of life."
Agreed. And here are our top 7 reasons that coding needs to be taught (early!) to British kids…
- The tech sector is growing exponentially. We need to expand the pool of British talent which can seize the opportunities this growth offers.
- Workers with tech skills can earn more on average.
- Web design/app skills will inspire British entrepreneurship. If you can design a website or write a basic program, you’ve got a fantastic springboard to launch ANYTHING.
- Coding is an international language. There are exciting tech jobs across the world, getting skilled Brits engaging with companies around the world will be exciting for them, and encourage international trade.
- Job opportunities increases for people with tech skills.
- Perhaps most importantly, (just like learning a new language) coding increases critical thinking and problem solving skills in young children. Coding games and challenges will make kids brighter.
- Finally, so much of all aspects of our lives and economy is intrinsically linked to the internet and technology these days (and will continue to be so) – young people need to master basic tech skills.
So, what age should kids start learning the basics of coding? We asked some sector experts for their insights…
"A lot depends on the quality of supervision. We've seen children as young as six have a satisfying experience with drag-and-drop languages such as Scratch, when supported by a teacher or volunteer with a strong knowledge of computing. For self-directed learning it's helpful if the child is a little older, as they'll have acquired stronger maths and general problem-solving skills. The Raspberry Pi Foundation's Code Club network of after school clubs focuses on 9-11 year olds, which feels like a sensible starting point to me (though I may be biased: I started at age ten)."
- Eben Upton, Founder, Raspberry Pi
"It's almost never too early to get started. For younger kids, tools like Code.org or Scratch are a really good way to introduce them to programming. From 13 or up, we'd of course recommend getting started with Codecademy!"
- Zach Sims, Co-founder and CEO, Codecademy
"Even the youngest students can begin learning computational thinking skills before they are ready to start coding. Our courses start in kindergarten with a blend of unplugged lessons and introductory coding. Students learn basic computer science concepts such as sequencing, loops and events as well as problem solving and perseverance techniques, internet safety, and how to collaborate with other students to solve problems. Starting this young helps to break stereotypes that exist around computer science, especially for girls and underrepresented minorities, before students are even aware of these stereotypes."
- Alice Steinglass, Chief Product Officer, Code.org
Working in one of the most iconic creative & tech hubs in the UK - Digbeth in Birmingham – and seeing first-hand the innovations possible with increasingly sophisticated tech, we highly endorse introducing your kids to coding at a Code Club, the free coding clubs for children of primary school age.
It’s also extremely worthwhile taking a gander at Code.org/Disney’s excellent Frozen or Star Wars-themed coding tutorials. Great fun! View the Code.org video (featuring the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg) waxing lyrical about the joys of learning coding below:
So, what age do YOU think kids should learn coding? Should coding be compulsory? Discuss.
Andy Parker, Digital Marketing, Custard Factory.