THE BLOG

How Early Should Our Kids Be Coding?

01/04/2014 14:30 BST | Updated 31/05/2014 10:59 BST

So far, 2014 seems to be the year that coding hits the mainstream news agenda. Earlier in March, we saw a huge push to get coding onto the curriculum and into the workplace, with Education Secretary Michael Gove announcing that this year was the 'Year of Code'.

This is good news, especially in education where it is important for children to learn practical, real-world skills as well as the stable subjects such as English, History, Maths and so on. The global economy is becoming even more ambitious as migration and developing nations increase the competition for jobs in major business hubs.

The question that has been posed as a result of this campaign is really how early children should be taught to code? In the US, they have been teaching children to code for many years, and the rise of Silicon Valley shows these results. In the UK, we are only just beginning to look at coding in schools, which is clear. Tech City, whilst definitely a good thing, pales in comparison to the innovation and success seen by it's US counterpart. And the director for 'Year of Code', Lottie Dexter, openly admitted during her Newsnight interview that she had no idea how to code (whilst proclaiming how basic skills could be taught in a day).

So clearly, if it is this easy, coding should be a major part of the current curriculum. Even more so considering the UK and London is one of the largest business regions in the world - we need to be giving our children the tools to enable them to compete alongside the world's best. People from all around the world come to London to live, learn and work; our children need to expand their skill set so they can enter the workplace ready to take on the challenges posed by working in this region.

Many within the technology industry feel that there needs to be a huge reform of the education system, with skills such as coding in mind. It's not just enough to start promoting coding - there are plenty other skills (design for one) that children could, and should, be learning. The business landscape is changing rapidly, with technology facilitating that. The fact that the term 'digital natives', those born and raised with technology around them, even exists, demonstrates how engrained it is on the workplace. So it's about time we started teaching children how to use it to their advantage instead of expecting them to learn for themselves.

In the US, where they have been teaching children to code for years, there is a different attitude to business and technology. With this ability and knowledge, there is more of an attitude of being an innovator, or creator, instead of being hard-wired to being a 'consumer'. This has created large technology business hubs, like Silicon Valley and also Seattle, which attract technology firms and professionals from all over the world.

In the UK, it's well overdue that our children are taught to code as a standard. The benefits of this skill but also knowledge of how things work, from websites all the way through to basic design, will permeate throughout any business and make them much more attractive employees.

Employers, entrepreneurs, and the government are waking up to the fact that digital skills are going to be essential, across all vertical sectors, if the UK is to remain at the heart of the global business agenda. We need to ensure that our children are not left behind due to lack of basic technology skills - and are properly placed to help them find their way in the workplace when they leave education.