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Coding, a core skill for Generation Alpha

“Everybody should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” – Steve Jobs

We live in an increasingly digitised, hyperconnected world. There is a digital revolution underway and everything around us is becoming technology-enabled: be it a game on your phone or food delivery from your favorite restaurant.

Our schools are a critical part of this revolution. Schools are slowly adopting multi-modal, hybrid learning through teacher tabs, smart TVs in classrooms and apps that ensure continuity of learning at home. The focus is on making learning engaging and meaningful through a range of audio-visual experiences. All this has been possible thanks to the integration of technology in pedagogy and curriculum.

Every day, there emerge new career opportunities based on analytical thinking, creative problem-solving and number crunching. Although children learn Science and Mathematics in school, is it truly enough to help them prepare for the future? How can we ensure that our children are ready to succeed in a world that is driven by technology?

Generation Alpha, or children who were born post-2010, have no choice but to be digitally savvy. Their world view and perspectives will after all increasingly be shaped by the prism of technology, regardless of background, location or choice of profession. It has therefore become necessary to introduce them to Coding and Computational Skills early on. This can be effectively achieved by integrating Coding and Computational Skills as a subject in school, which then lays a strong foundation to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Why should children learn coding?

  • Critical thinking: Coding enhances critical thinking among children as they learn to make an objective analysis while evaluating an error. The development of critical thinking skills can help students make proper judgments. Being a process of deep observation and analysis, critical thinking allows children to skillfully understand information that leads to disciplined action.
  • Future-readiness: The evolving nature of work today means that future employees must be well-versed with digital skills and technologies. A strong foundation in coding can open up a world of diverse employment opportunities across industries, given how services and products are being increasingly digitised.
  • Problem-solving skills: Coding provides children the opportunity to solve seemingly complex issues. It challenges and builds their ability to rationalize and has been known to develop cognitive capabilities.
  • Nurtures creativity and a growth mindset: By nature, every child is curious. Coding for kids is a fundamentally creative process. Unlike the analog or offline world, where creativity is often a function of material aspects and tools, the only restriction in coding is a child’s imagination!
  • Learning by doing: A child learns best by exploring and ‘doing’; and coding naturally promotes this.

Adopting a coding-based curriculum

India’s National Education Policy recommends that all students learn coding, to become good, successful, innovative, adaptable and productive human beings in today’s rapidly changing world. Computational thinking and mathematics have been given emphasis throughout the school years. According to the policy, encouraging children to learn to code and exposing them to technology at a young age will take them a long way and better prepare them for the future.

Schools can maximize the effectiveness and relevance of coding by:

  • At-school learning: If a child spends 6-7 hours in school each day, one of the most effective ways for him/her to learn coding is by including it as part of the school curriculum. Well-trained, certified teachers can teach codes and demonstrate the programs used in school computer labs.
  • Focus on one language: Coding comprises several languages ​​including Java and Python. Students should learn one language first, before moving on to the next.
  • Process: The entire process of coding is focused on solving one problem. It is best taught by teaching students how to break down the problem into several smaller ones.
  • Continually challenge students: The thinking ability of students should be challenged by providing them with problems corresponding to their current skill levels. For instance, the syntaxes and semantics can be jumbled.
  • Project-based learning: Students must be encouraged to create multiple projects such as building a website that allows e-book or note sharing among classmates, building a tic-tac-toe game, building a snake and ladder game, etc.

India, which will surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by 2023, is projected to have a population of 1.668 billion in 2050. We have the potential to emerge as a global super-power with strong demographic dividend. However, planning for a confident, future-ready workforce in India demands that coding and computational skills be integrated early on into school curricula; be made enjoyable as a subject by encouraging project-based, collaborative learning; and be taught effectively by well-trained teachers with a vision for the future.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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