Our Prime Minister recently deflected a question about teaching young kids basic programming skills with all the wit and diplomatic nuance that we're used to. Not that he'll be reading this, but here's why it's a great idea.
When asked by Bill Shorten if he would support teaching primary and secondary school students to code, Abbott replied:
Let's just understand exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has asked. He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously? Seriously?
Nice one, Tony. Nailed it.
One can only hope that after collecting back pats from the front bench, the PM might ask a question along the lines of "So... Is that actually a good idea?"
It's quite a good idea.
As any one who's done programming can tell you, it's not just the workable skill you're learning. It's a way of thinking. The no compromises world of code teaches problem solving skills, creativity, maths, logic, and can actually be very fun. A love for coding won't stick with every child, but the lessons will. An investment in coding skills is an investment in an entire generation that will think more logically.
For the leader of the party supposedly all about jobs and financial responsibility, Abbott seems to have missed the trend lines. In Europe, several companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Rovio, and more, have called for action to fill an estimated 900,000 vacant jobs in the tech sector by 2020. Their request singled out teaching kids to code.
According to the Report of the Joint Informatics Europe and ACM Europe Working Group on Informatics Education, we're failing our kids and asking for an underperforming economy:
Continuation of this failure would put the European economy at risk by causing students to lag behind those of many other countries, including emerging but increasingly competitive countries
Anecdotally, my last trip to E3 had a very noticeable rise in the amount of Swedes I spoke to in developer interviews. I began to ask why this was, and why there was a sudden boom in successful Swedish studios. The answers I got pointed to digital literacy programs that target youth.
It goes without saying that the comment about sending 11-year olds to work is ridiculous. That's the level of discourse we're at right now — all the more reason we should make logical thinking compulsory. With luck, the Age of Information will avoid another political society with near-zero digital literacy making all of our digital policies.