The National Curriculum published last year includes a programme of study for computing. It outlines the computer science courses that all children from the ages of five to sixteen will now be taught in school. This starts with learning the basics of algorithms and creating simple programs in Years 1 and 2, and culminates with older pupils learning to develop their analytic and creative computer science skills, potentially through larger project work, in their GCSE years. But why is it so important that children learn to code from an early age?
Firstly, the world around has changed rapidly in the last twenty years with the advent of mobile technologies and the inception of the Internet. There are now six billion active mobile phones, three billion of us are online, and today there are nearly two billion active social network users worldwide. So today, it’s more important than ever that schoolchildren are taught from a young age to be ‘tech-savvy’ so that they can positively engage with the digital world around them, gaining the most from it as possible, whether that be through developing an mobile application or abuilding a search-and-rescue robot.
It is essentially that all young people have not just a high-level concept of the functions the computing systems around them perform, but also understand their innermost workings. This will be achieved by teaching schoolchildren not only about web security, but also teaching them about the subject of cryptography. This is a great means for developing enhancing analytical and logic skills, which can be applied in other science subjects as well as in humanities. Moreover, computer science is a cross-disciplinary subject, with applications in biology, physics, geology and other subjects. So even if a student decides that he or she does not want to become a software engineer, they still have transferrable skills they can use in other fields.
Furthermore, the UK tech sector is multibillion-pound industry and globally the market is worth billions of billions of pounds and is growing at an exponential rate. For this reason it is important that we equip students who dream of founding start-ups with the tools necessary for them to stake in the industry. Great Britain has a long tradition in computing, from the mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma code during World War 2 and laid the foundations for modern computing, to Sir Tim Berners-Lee the inventor of the World Wide Web. It is imperative that we teach students to code from an early age if we want to continue this great legacy.
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