“Young people today have lots of experience and familiarity interacting with new technologies, but a lot less with creating with new technologies, and expressing themselves with these new technologies. It’s almost as if they can read but not write with new technologies,” explained Mitch Resnick, Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group, in a TEDx video in 2012.
The digital world is turning the planet upside down, and this is especially true for French society. These days, more and more jobs demand in-depth coding knowledge, but the number of experts in this domain remains low, which is why François Hollande wants to introduce our children to coding in schools. Not only will students be made into professional coders, but their digital culture will also develop and this is so important in an ever more connected society. The Baltics, the United Kingdom and India have all come to the same conclusion and already offer these types of lessons. In Chicago, in addition to the classes already on offer, in three years’ time, high school students will need to have computing knowledge in order to get their degrees.
IT as a Foreign Language?
Think back to when you didn’t want to take language classes at school. France today is suffering from this deficit and is trying to catch up with the rest of the world. France’s TOEFL ranking bears witness to this, with an average of 88 points out of 120 in 2012. We must not make the same mistake with coding. Are we really going to stand back and watch as we further handicap ourselves? The French are not opposed to the idea of adding digital to the scholastic curriculum. In May 2014, the Syntec Numérique-BVA barometer indicated that 87% of France’s population considers it important to teach coding and computer programming in schools, 41% beginning in middle school or high school. But why do we want to teach code to our little darlings? Is that really a necessity? The question is a multi-faceted one.
A B CSS: Teaching code
First of all, 3 out 4 French people want to add computer programming to the elementary school curriculum. The aim is to start as early as possible, so that French children can catch up with students in other countries, but also to give kids a different understanding of the world around them. Coding classes will be offered as extracurricular activities. This type of class will motivate students who will, for example, be able to create their own computer games. As an added bonus, it will also strengthen all of their core skills: in order to code, you need to be able to write, count, calculate and read.
Additionally, 70% of parents of high school and middle school students say they are prepared to use educational applications to raise their children’s awareness of computer programming. The aim is to gain a degree of autonomy and to offer students a deeper understanding of computers by tackling more concrete coding subjects. However, according to François Hollande, they will not be able to take advantage of this until 2016.
Even the most prestigious schools like HEC, ESCP Europe, INSEEC, and Kedge are getting on board, and the list goes on. They have built partnerships with IBM and Microsoft and are developing majors in competitive intelligence and masters degrees in electronics. Some of them will be introducing mandatory digital economics classes in the 2015-2016 academic year, while others will be introducing their students to the world of computer code.
Outside schools and universities, workshops and centers are offering many hands-on educational activities to introduce young people to programming languages and give them the ability to understand how computers “think”: scratch.mit.edu, simplon.co, code.org, codecademy.com, teamtreehouse.com, codeschool.com, and more.
Failure to Rescue a Generation in Peril!
In the long run, learning to code in order to create software or websites could even stimulate the job market. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, we will need 1.5 million big data engineers around the world by 2018! As Bruno Vanryb of the Syntec Numérique digital employers’ association recently reminded news outlet 20minutes.fr, “The digital sector is one of the most dynamic economic sectors.”
Given that we are all constantly on the lookout for new technologies (by buying the new iPhone or the latest Samsung watch), would it not also be a good idea to be at the forefront of a field that is revolutionizing our everyday lives? Will you wait five years to buy the iPhone 6? Of course not, because by then, Apple will be on model 10, which will slip under your skin like a computer chip, so you would still be stuck in the prehistoric age with your phone in your pants pocket.
The choice is yours: will you wait around for your kids to teach you to code, or will you take matters into your own hands?