The world that our children are growing up in is staggeringly different from the one before, and technology is at the centre of this global seismic shift.
Every facet of our life is impacted by technology, with all element of kids' future lives likely to be impacted by technology to some extent. Whatever their goals or career aspirations, they are going to need to know how to make technology work for them.
The UK government recognises this fact, and made significant changes to the Computing National Curriculum in September 2014, with children as young as five being introduced to elements of coding. The question is: is it going to be enough to help them match future demands?
Coding is the Foundation of Modern Life
Richard Branson's belief in technology is well known, with his ventures literally taking him to space and back -
Whether we're fighting climate change or going to space, everything is moved forward by computers, and we don't have enough people who can code.
There are two main reasons why teaching kids code is important: firstly, they need to know how to code for themselves, and secondly, they need to learn coding for the future of the UK economy, and society. Indeed, if it continues the way it is going, then the UK will have to rely heavily on external sources for years to come.
Code Matters in Childhood
In many ways, learning to code is like learning a language - mastering it in progressive steps is considerably easier when spread out over a number of years. There are also wider benefits for children, with problem solving, logical thinking and mathematical enquiry all directly linked to the skill.
Future Careers and Coding
Until now we've made the mistake of thinking coding is a distinct career path, set aside for the 'techies'. However, this will have to change over the next few decades. Yes, programmers will of course be needed, and in abundance, but the individual - whatever their chosen career - will need coding as a skill to pull from their back pocket.
Traditionally, you might not expect a doctor to need code, but with the continuous tech advancements that we are growing used to, it is quickly becoming clear that coding knowledge can help, even in this sort of occupation. Doctors who have taken the time to learn code - or who have been taught coding at school - will be far more able to navigate new medical technology and software, and might even be able to create technology of their own to improve patient health.
Furthermore, with the UK's strong culture of entrepreneurship and self-employment, teaching kids to code is becoming ever more important. Currently, 99% of all businesses in the UK are classified as small to medium sized enterprises. That's 5.4 million businesses.
Yet, according to a new report, nearly 2 million SME's don't have an online presence. The research goes on to say that not having a website costs the UK economy an eye-watering £343 billion every year. This would mean a boost in turnover of nearly £174,000 per SME, per year - if they were to introduce a website. As the digital revolution takes over and kids aspire to become entrepreneurs, educating the next generation to code, especially coding websites, is not only good for the individual, but also for the economy.
According to the research, smaller businesses, driven by entrepreneurial spirit and a defined skill, service or product, are the ones least likely to have a website. These businesses, particularly in their start-up phase, face costs and barriers to entry. Imagine if those entrepreneurs had coding as a back-pocket skill in the same way as their ability to read and write.
The Future is Code
We may have been the first country to mandate teaching code to our kids, but there's still a long way to go if we are to equip the current generation of children for the programming knowledge demands they will face in the future. Coding needs to become as important as literacy, being the language of commonality for the future.
Despite the National Curriculum changes, not enough is happening to teach kids code and even though kids spend around 6 hours a day on screens, it's not being used for teaching code. We need to change this.
Including coding in the curriculum, upgrading school facilities so that schools can teach at the highest level, and pushing for students to experiment online in the industry they're interested in is the best way to ensure that the UK leads the online world for decades to come.
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