Coding in mainstream education is a long over-due inclusion that could improve STEM proficiency. Code literacy is a means to bridge the digital divide by providing all students with the means to use technology for creative engagement and enhancement of skills such as hypotheses, exploring, experimenting, evaluating, and drawing conclusions.
The inclusion of coding as a subject is a hot topic of discussion. Before we get into the discourse, let’s understand what coding really is. Coding is nothing but a language that can tell a machine what to do.
Some stakeholders feel it’s too early to introduce a complicated subject such as Coding to young students. Some may also argue that we are pushing students towards a particular career path from an early age.
However, if we shift our perspective, introducing coding to mainstream education might not seem such a drastic step after all.
Let’s look at Coding as one of vocational subjects introduced in the mainstream curriculum.
Vocation courses develop quite a few skills in students. Just a few years back, Agriculture, Carpentry, Book Binding, Home Science, etc were part of vocational courses available to students. This did not mean that the curriculum was nudging students to become only farmers, carpenters, or bookbinders. These vocational courses aimed to enhance basic skills associated with agriculture, carpentry, bookbinding, etc.
Similarly, the Coding’s curriculum aims to polish skills such as algorithmic thinking, analytical, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. This does not mean that the student can only take up software engineering as a profession. The most important skill that they learn is to think of solutions. Our lives have been made better with the use of apps, websites, and computer software. Therefore, it is critical to include Coding as a subject so that the future generation can gain a better understanding of technology and how it can shape our world.
So, what is the right age to start learning how to code? NEP has introduced Coding as a subject from grade 6 onward. Is it the right thing to do? Let’s investigate.
In grade 1, the curriculum focuses on the foundation levels of Math, English, and Science. Does coding have any elementary level? The right question to ask is, ‘Does logical thinking has any elementary level?’
Primary grades curriculum introduces logical, analytical, and algorithmic thinking in the form of activities, projects, discussions, and assessments. Keeping this in mind, coding shouldn’t be any different. The way the curriculum is designed plays a major role in the way coding is introduced in primary grades. The curriculum must focus on usage on developing the skills in the human brain rather than focusing on building a machine. The language syntax and usage of tools or techniques should be limited as they will change inevitably in the era of fast-changing technology. It won’t take much time for the existing technology to become outdated whereas the skills that are developed in a student remain intact.
The government has done its part by taking such a progressive decision of including Coding in the curriculum. Now the onus lies with the parents.
They must make the decision carefully while going for coding classes. It should not become another pressure point for students. According to the latest trends, some parents send their children who are in grade 6 for preparatory classes for IIT JEE/ Medical exams. Thinking Coding as a competitive field will take out all the joy of learning from it. It will be helpful to consider Coding as any other subject added to the curriculum and let the student enjoy the process. The process is more important than the goal.