I already feel like a doddering old man around my younger friends. When I did Information Communication Technology at school, there was only one machine with a colour graphical user interface and we didn’t even get that until I was halfway through my school career. Now, England is set to become the first country in the world to make coding (or “computer programming” as we called it before it was cool) mandatory in schools.
Every child between five and fourteen will be given lessons in how to make the next Call of Duty (or something like that) in a scheme that has the backing of both Microsoft and Google. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite have the unanimous backing of teachers just yet – they appear quite uncertain in their own ability to teach the subject.
Since most teachers went to school at the same kind of time I did, they never learnt how to program much beyond extremely basic things in, well, BASIC. A few might have copied out lines of code – as I did when I was five or six – from Spectrum magazines but that’s where the level of expertise ends for many. Around two thirds of teachers polled by The Times don’t have confidence in their ability to teach the subject. The problem is especially prevalent among primary school teachers who handle our nation’s children’s educations between the ages of five and eleven.
Nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction, despite any teething problems or issues of infrastructure that might need smoothed out. Programming teaches much more than simply how to make things happen on a computer – it’s full of wider lessons about logic and problem solving, as well as encouraging a kind of creativity that might not be so easy to encourage by other means.