With the coming of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, many students are taking it upon themselves to teach themselves the skills of coding in order to become more tech-savvy and compete in an increasingly digital age. The term, ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, coined by Klaus Schwab, refers to the consolidation of technology such as personal computers and the internet into emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics and biotechnology, which will be crucial for both business and personal operations. As this trend begins to dominate our society, both public bodies and companies are looking to improve the coding skills of the younger generations to prepare them for the technological world.
Young people who are computer-literate are more likely to succeed in these jobs, making coding a lucrative skill to learn throughout their education
The benefits of coding are far-reaching; it teaches children basic reasoning and logic, as well as teaching them to create computer programmes, apps and games independently. In the digital age, coding is just as important as English, Maths or History as it prepares students for their future occupations which will have elements of coding. Nowadays, the top jobs, such as law, banking and consulting use technology such as AI to become more efficient and want their employees to be able to quickly learn the ins and outs of their platforms and systems. Young people who are computer-literate are more likely to succeed in these jobs, making coding a lucrative skill to learn throughout their education.
Corporations such as the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a start-up tech company to get young people interested in technology, has sold more than 23m credit-card-sized computers for around $5 which can be programmed by anyone. Raspberry Pi also partnered with the STEM Learning and British Computer Society to deliver a programme to train primary and secondary school teachers to teach coding in their schools. The Raspberry Pi Foundation provides free teaching, educational materials and resources, enabling teachers to run coding classes. They will also run face-to-face workshops across 40 schools in well-performing areas, who will then be paid to deliver training to neighbouring schools. This will enable teachers to introduce coding into the national curriculum by using it alongside traditional subjects such as English, Maths and Science, as well as teaching specialist coding sessions to students.
Particularly for schools that cannot afford to have teachers dedicated to coding, the government funding would allow schools to teach coding alongside the national curriculum
The government also invested £100m into teaching coding in schools last November, of which £78m was invested in the Raspberry Pi Foundation to create a more systematic plan of teaching coding in schools. The BBC has also created a micro:bit programme and given a codable computer to every year 7 child across the UK to encourage digital creativity. Programmes such as these represent the ambitions from companies and the government to create a new generation of tech-pioneers that are able to compete against students from countries in the United States and in Asia, who are adapting their curriculums to suit the ever-growing demand for computer-literate young people.
Most teachers who are teaching coding lessons are not specialists in coding. Instead, they teach traditional subjects such as English and Science. Particularly for schools that cannot afford to have teachers dedicated to coding, the government funding would allow schools to teach coding alongside the national curriculum. Coding can be used in Geography coursework to devise solutions or be used to create presentations in English. This may seem like a technical and difficult task for children, but it can be used to make lessons fun and interactive, thus raising overall attainment in struggling schools.
A shortage of teachers who are able to deliver coding lessons in classrooms has resulted in current teachers, who teach English and Maths, to try their hand at teaching coding after learning from charities and start-ups. Not only are pupils learning how to code, but teachers are also using resources from charities to learn the basics and build on it in lessons. With shortages of teachers in subjects such as Maths and Science, many in the teaching profession argue that the government needs to deal with the shortages in subjects that are already on the national curriculum, before trying to invest in teachers for subjects such as computer science and coding.
Changing the curriculum, such as with the new Computer Science GCSE, will encourage young people to become developers as well as consumers
However, start-ups in the tech industry argue that they are unable to grow as a company as they are faced with shortages of talented young people who have skills such as coding. They do not want young people who can swipe on an app. They want young people who can create the app and have both creative intuition and the technical capacity to help companies to achieve their target growth. Changing the curriculum, such as with the new Computer Science GCSE, will encourage young people to become developers as well as consumers.
As the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ takes hold of the world, young people need to be prepared for it, not only as consumers of new technology, but also as developers. This can only happen if skills such as coding are developed from a young age; from the carefree years of primary school until they start university as young adults, not only to improve their technical understanding and discipline, but also to improve their creative flair and prepare them for an ever-changing job market. The skills shortage needs to be plugged through greater investment from both companies and governments by training teachers to use coding in their classrooms. Only then will the curriculum develop to suit the fast-paced job market.