The importance of coding from a young age:
By teaching your child to code from a young age you are giving them a skill for life. Even if your child does not ultimately become a programmer, you are providing your child with problem-solving skills, you’re teaching them to hone their logic, and you are boosting their confidence levels. On top of that, providing your child with these digital skills will improve their chances of being employed in the future.
Yishan Wong, CEO of Reddit says that “in the coming century, being able to command the world that will be thoroughly computerised will set apart those who can live successfully in the future from those who will be utterly left behind. By teaching children to code there will be a fundamental shift in the way we view technology because we have altered the dynamics; coders will no longer be passive consumers of technology but rather active producers of it. There is a huge difference between consuming content and actually producing it because you’ve got agency over the tools you are using – which is empowering.
Many high schoolers cannot readily identify how their subjects work into their lives – especially when it comes to their future careers. One may find themselves asking “how is the altitude of a trapezoid going to apply to my life situation?”. The problem with many school subjects is that there is no learning with a purpose. Many South African students don’t get the hands-on joy and excitement of learning and discovering something new. Justin Yarrow, founder of CodeMakers says that low-resourced schools are teaching the children by writing something on the board and expecting the children to copy it on paper. Ultimately these schools are failing to teach the children the skills to achieve a better life. Many South African children are matriculating without ever using a computer. South African schools need to recognise that computer programming is being taught to children as young as four, around the world, so other kids are entering adulthood with the ability to think and solve problems, and they are entering the workspace with the potential of many different careers, and South African children are being left behind.
The leading drive for learning to code should not be just to have the skill but rather should be for the perceived ideas for which the skill can be used; not everyone will be a computer programmer but every child should learn digital skills because even social workers, nurses and policemen will need them in the workplace,” says Lindiwe Matlali, founder of non-profit organization Africa Teen Geeks.
Matlali goes on to say that far from the perception that computer science is hard, “kids have so much fun creating, being able to make something that moves – basically telling the computer what to do. They love the challenge and it makes them work harder. By solving problems, they can be proud of what they’ve created”. Will every job in the future involve programming? Not necessarily, but it is crucial that every child learns to code. We are already living in a world dominated by software. Your smartphone is run by software, your DSTV decoder is, we no longer use maps but use the internet to navigate ourselves from A to B. The next generations world will be even more online and digital – so it is imperative that the skills to navigate this space are taught from an early age.
The attitude we need to instil in the children is that they can make the world better through technology and that we’ve empowered them to do so.