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Coding and Kids: Should Your Child Be Learning to Program?

In 2019 coding became compulsory in NSW primary schools and for students in years 7 and 8. While there is widespread support for this move, some educators believe too much focus is being placed on coding.

Coding camps and classes have sprung up everywhere to meet the growing demand for these skills, but with differing views on the subject, it can be hard for parents to gauge why students need coding and if they are learning enough at school.

Here we look at the arguments for and against coding for kids:

Benefits of Teaching Kids to Code

This is the central reason given for teaching coding in schools. It is claimed that AI will make many current jobs redundant and the winners in the future job market will be those with coding skills.

By learning to write their own programs, children discover how applications and websites are designed, providing them with a deeper understanding of the modern world. When they gain the ability to build websites and create apps and games, they become creators rather than passive consumers.

Programming requires reasoning, logic and problem-solving. Kids must learn to think abstractly and visualise concepts, helping them perform better in all subjects. They also need to be creative and willing to experiment. Coding requires collaboration and helps students understand how new inventions build on previous knowledge.

Arguments Against Coding for Kids

Critics claim most workers will not need coding skills in the future. According to this view, interfaces are becoming so easy to use that anyone with basic digital literacy will be able to create and design games and apps. Just as there is no need to understand how an engine works to drive a car, critics argue it will not be necessary to know how computer systems function to work with them in the future.

When the telegraph was invented, there was a push from some quarters to teach everyone Morse code. Critics view mass coding education as equally short-sighted. Just as the programming language Basic has now almost disappeared they believe Python will soon become obsolete and computers will evolve beyond using the binary code of ones and zeros.

Paul Bennett, an educational consultant in Nova Scotia is opposed to coding in schools because of the time it takes from other subjects. He claims “most regular math teachers fear that coding will further erode classroom time for math and do little or nothing to prepare students for true computer programming, AP-level computer science, or a STEM career.” In Australia, this is compounded by a lack of skilled teachers.

Why Coding Matters

While the arguments against coding are interesting, it’s clear the benefits for students far outweigh the potential negatives. Even if the specific programming languages learnt at school become redundant, the skills gained are invaluable for academic and career success.

One important point to emerge from the debate is that coding should not be taught at the expense of foundational STEM subjects. Students need a well-rounded education to prepare them for the future.

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