Steve Jobs once mentioned that every person in the U.S. should develop a skill for programming a computer. Fast forward to 2015 and Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor, echoed his words stating that coding is perhaps “the most important second language” and that children across the world would do very well to learn it as a way of self-expression, regardless if they are scientifically or artistically inclined (Adamczyk, 2019). In 2017, Cook brought this idea up to U.S. President Donald Trump, citing how the country’s public school system should include computer science courses, even if the students are not going to pursue computer science career paths.
These CEOs are not on their own in their advocacy to promote the importance of learning how to code, especially among the new generation of learners. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, also believes in this cause (Elkins, 2018). Executives from other major tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have also been known to support the implementation of coding lessons as part of the K-12 curriculum. With the help of a nonprofit group, Code.org, advancing this agenda has become possible and it all started in the Silicon Valley area.
In this article, we will take a look at how Silicon Valley pushed coding into American classrooms with the help of an industry-backed organization.
A movement, no matter the size, pushes forward because of the driving force behind it. And behind the goal to make computer science a core part of the public school system is Code.org. Code.org is a nonprofit organization supported by industry giants, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook. It was founded in 2012 by twin brothers Hadi Partovi, an early investor in Airbnb and Facebook, and Ali Partovi who is also an early investor in Dropbox and Zappos. Backed by prominent corporations, tech executives, and other organizations, Code.org has successfully launched its advocacy to bring a computer science course, particularly coding, to the public elementary and high schools first in the Silicon Valley area, then the whole U.S., and eventually the world.
Although the primary goal of the organization is to include coding classes in school, Code.org has bigger goals it aims to achieve, including the following:
Source: Code Studio Activity
Aside from the annual event, teachers are also bringing the Hour of Code experience to their classrooms by creating an account in Code.org and utilizing its extensive library of computer science lessons.
Just like how reading and writing are regarded as fundamental skills, coding is now considered as “an essential ability for 21st-century learners” (Stenger, 2017). Being born in the digital age, today’s students will greatly benefit from making coding a form of basic literacy. Coding plays a fundamental role in developing new technologies that play a significant role in our everyday lives and in the continuously developing modern society.
Below are just some of the benefits students can gain from learning how to code from a young age:
Programming is not all about acquiring the hard technical skills, but it also involves developing soft skills necessary for program developers. The ability to think methodically and critically is just among the strengths coding can help develop from a young age. By learning how to code, a student also learns the process involved in solving problems, including identifying errors or issues, analyzing the problem from different perspectives, developing potential solutions, deciding the best course of action to take, and finally, acting on the problem to resolve it (Lofton, 2018).
Students who do not pursue a four-year college education can still set themselves up for a competitive career in the tech industry. The best vocational or trade schools across the United States offer computer programming courses that can be completed within a two-year period or less. Other institutions also offer online certifications, which is just another convenient option for students. Meanwhile, for students who plan to take STEM courses in college, having a computer science background is an advantage.
The rapid digitization of business processes is calling for more talents that businesses predict they will be lacking in the near future (McKinsey & Company, 2020). The talent shortage in the software development category, however, has already reached 40 million skilled workers globally. This number is expected to grow to 85.2 million workers by 2030 (Daxx, 2020).
Currently, businesses utilize reskilling as one of the more effective tactics in addressing the issue of the talent gap. In a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company among different companies, it identified the skills being prioritized, among which are technological skills.
Source: McKinsey & CompanyDesigned by
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for computer and information technology professions is projected to increase by 11% from 2019 to 2029. Among the top 10 occupations are the following (all median pay indicated are based on 2019 data):
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections Program
While there are powerful organizations that believe teaching K-12 students coding skills brings a number of benefits, there are also those that oppose this view. One of them is Andreas Schleicher, the director of education and skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). During his turn to speak at the World Innovation Summit for Education in Paris, he mentioned that teaching students how to code would just be a waste of time. He further elaborated that the coding skills and knowledge the children receive would be useless once they grow up because by then, coding would be outdated.
Coding and programming languages, however, remain the fundamental elements in emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced automation, virtual reality, big data, robotics, and more. And while not everyone can and should be coders in the future, it is safe to say that coding is not going away anytime soon, and making it a core part of the K-12 curriculum will not be for naught.