Why should kids learn to code? Let's start with the wrong answer: to earn lots of money as software developers when they grow up. I hear this answer given often but I think it's a terrible answer. Yes, some kids will grow up and become software developers. Whether developers will be paid as much in 10 years' time as they do today (when there will be a lot more programmers around) is another issue altogether.
There are many other much better reasons for kids to learn to code:
It's lots of fun
It helps students with critical thinking and problem-solving
It allows kids to be very creative
It's lots of fun
It's an immensely rewarding subject, giving a huge sense of achievement
It helps students with learning to persevere
It's becoming a required skill in many more different professions and jobs
Did I say that it's lots of fun?
Looking for more information on kids coding? Read our A-Z of kids coding.
Coding As A Required Skill in Many Professions
The importance of kids' coding is growing every year. In part this is because the types of jobs we have today are changing and more and more of them require some coding knowledge. Science and finance remain two fields that rely heavily on coding, but many other fields are also starting to make the most of the power of coding. This has been driven by the large amounts of data collected in every aspect of our lives, and how understanding and analysing this data is becoming more and more important every day.
Large amounts of data can only truly be explored and understood through coding. Coding may well be as important a subject in the future as literacy and numeracy are today, and several jobs may simply be inaccessible to those who cannot code.
Why is coding so important when dealing with data? Let's start with the humble spreadsheet first. Many people in most jobs have had to create or explore data presented in spreadsheets. Sometimes, we go through the rows and columns manually an extract the information we need that way. This is fine if you have a spreasheet with a reasonable number of rows and columns. But what if the data are much more than that, perhaps thousands or millions of rows?
Code can be used to automate the exploration of data and the extraction of information.
Also, as data sets become larger and more complex, so are the questions we want to answer using the data. Excel formulas are useful, but they are very limited in scope. Often we need to go beyond what can be expressed by an Excel formula. Coding using a language such as Python has nearly no limits on what sort of questions you can ask and get answers with any data set, no matter how large.
This is the reason why coding is becoming an essential component to more and more jobs.
Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving and Self-Confidence
If this wasn't a good enough reason why children should learn how to code, here is another one which is just as important. Coding is a perfect subject for students to practice and improve skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. These are skills whose importance go well beyond just coding.
Coding is probably one of the best subjects when it comes to practising problem-solving. Each program a coder writes is an exercise in solving a problem using the vast and complex tools that coding makes available. No two programs are ever the same, as each problems needs a different solution, using the coding tools in different ways and different combinations.
Coding is also an activity that builds self-confidence and resilience. The sense of satisfication that one gets when a computer program works and does what it's meant to do is very rewarding, and this is a sensation that does not go away, no matter how experienced a programmer is. With children in particular, this builds a sense of confidence that goes beyond coding.
So how about the reason that you may hear mentioned first? That we need lots of programmers in the future? Yes, that too. Some children will grow up to become professional programmers. But in the same way we teach Maths to all children but we don't expect them to all become professional mathematicians, and we teach science to everyone but not everyone becomes a scientist, we teach coding for many more important reasons rather than just ot make sure there are enough programmers in the future.
The importance of kids' coding is growing, and it will keep growing. In many ways, parents are realising the importance of coding for kids at a quicker and faster pace than many schools and educators are, and are pushing for coding to be taught as a proper, academic subject rather than as a lightweight activity.