Why the weirdly Victorian way we teach coding needs to change

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on November 25th, 2021

Why the weirdly Victorian way we teach coding needs to change

Posted by Tilt Recruitment on November 25, 2021

We used to teach maths by drilling children in multiplication tables until “eight eights are sixty-four” was branded on their brains for life.

With the advent of the calculator, that became unnecessary. But we didn’t just hand kids a calculator and leave them to get on with it. We started teaching them to think like mathematicians, to be curious and to solve mathematical problems creatively.

So why is the way we teach coding still stuck at the drilling stage?

While the UK is making great efforts to establish coding in the National Curriculum, uptake is slow across all ages and particularly among girls. Simon Peyton Jones, chair of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), says it will be 2024 before the first child “falls off that conveyor belt” ready to join the workforce. By that time, software will have changed.

With over 500 million new apps set to be built in the next five years–more than the total number built in the last 40–and a shortage of software developers, companies will turn to low-code or no-code platforms to create these apps. Gartner predicts that by 2024, over 65% of app development inside companies will be done using low-code and no-code software.

So should the government ditch its investment in coding education? Not so fast. There will always be a need for specialised coders–but more importantly, we can use the coding curriculum to teach the next generation to think like coders.

Many of the best devs say their most memorable lessons in coding were the ones that taught them how to think, not what to think. Learning techniques to tackle complex problems through systematic trial and error was what turned them into successful coders. In very simple terms, these are the steps:

● Understand the problem well enough to explain it succinctly
● Break it down into smaller, more manageable problems
● Work collaboratively: split tasks and seek outside advice
● Practise, practise, practise

To inspire more young people to develop these skills, we need to provide opportunities for them to use and experiment with real-world tools. The 2020 GitHub Education Classroom Report revealed that younger devs now expect remote access, and the pandemic has proved that remote learning can and should be accessible to all.

Just as the invention of the calculator didn’t mean we stopped teaching maths, a low-to-no-code future shouldn’t mean we stop teaching coding. But we do need to refocus our priorities to equip young people with the tools they need to problem-solve like developers.

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