Give a child an app, and they’ll play for a day. Teach them how to code one and you may create a future entrepreneur.
Most children learn about computers as soon as they learn to walk, so it’s understandable why many are asking why computer literacy classes don’t begin until the later years of high school.
More than 10 organisations, including StartupAus and the Australian Computer Society, recently called upon the Government to introduce coding and computational thinking classes from foundation primary levels through to Year 10.
The Government is nonetheless deliberating on whether to introduce the subjects, which were part of a recommendation set out by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACAR).
With the focus of the Government’s curriculum review being the improvement of students’ numeracy and literacy, subjects like coding and computational thinking might be considered low priority. However, some industry leaders believe such subjects have significant potential for the future employment prospects of students.
Principals Australia Institute CEO Jim Davies said there was significant endeavour in school education for young people to develop their computational and logical capacities, along with abilities to analyse and solve problems.
“These skills and abilities will be essential for employment of young people as they exit school and higher education,” Davies said.
“The proposed digital technologies curriculum provides an opportunity to move forward in these directions.”
So what is ‘computational thinking’ and ‘coding’?
Computational thinking deals with the skill of integrating logical and innovative thinking. It teaches students how to think critically and use efficient problem-solving methods.
As for coding, its application is purely computer-based.
The Code Conquest website explains it in a nutshell:
‘Coding is what makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites. Your browser, your OS, the apps on your phone, Facebook, and this website – they’re all made with code.’
A rapidly expanding program that is promoting the cause is Code.org, a non-profit organisation that seeks to expand participation in computer science. Now in its second year, the code.org coding movement spans more than 180 countries, with one hour tutorials already available in more than 30 languages.
The group’s online education resource Hour of Code coincides with Computer Science Education Week. Apart from giving children as young as the age of four the opportunity to learn about coding, it also allows them to participate internationally.
StartupAus director Alan Noble believes that education of basic computer science should start at as early an age as possible.
“Computational thinking has become a basic skill and is up there with reading and writing,” Noble said.