At primary and secondary schools across the world, there is a huge push to make students more “literate” in mathematics and in the language arts. A lot of time and resources is spent to create standardized testing and other initiatives in order to properly assess students. As a person who has always been interested in studying programming languages, I have always wondered why teaching school children programming was never made mandatory. With such a growing demand for computer-literate people in a world that is dominated by technology, you would think educators make the leap to expose their students to computing and programming concepts.
Like myself, many emerging programmers are self-taught. Whether it’s through a “Learn C++ for Dummies” book or online tutorials, interest in programming is truly self-motivated. I am not making the implication that those interested in writing or in learning mathematical theory are not self-learners as well.
But why make programming a mandatory school subject? Not everyone is cut out to be a computer nerd! Not everyone is cut out to be novelist or theoretical mathematician either! School shouldn’t be a place where students are given as little choices in course selection. It should be a place where academic interests are explored. And who knows? Little Timmy who was a avid learner in his introductory programming class may grow up one day to be a software engineer! This is especially important when a student makes the eventual decision to pursue post-secondary studies.
As you may know, a lot of first year university/college students are unsure of their own academic interests. Although many people believe that post-secondary education is meant to allow students to explore their “options”, I believe that this should also be done earlier. You spend 12 or so years in primary and secondary school, and only 4 years are usually spent in post-secondary school. In those 12 years, you be thirving at a much more quicker rate! I have always felt that primary schools, especially, dumb down their expectations of students. Kids are bright and they are quick learners!
Just look at this 12-year-old kid who has already contributed to the App Store!
It honestly doesn’t take a genius or child prodigy to learn programming and get started on creating things! Anyone can do it provided they are given great learning tools. When it comes to programming, your average 10-year-old has no idea what it is. But if he/she is given an introduction to it in school, he/she can have the opportunity to pursue it as an interest. The deficit of women in technology can definitely be attributed to this lacking opportunity!
So why do I think programming is important? It teaches logic, syntax, and math! To me, programming is the hybrid, love-child of math and the language arts! There are so many applications to programming. It’s not all about making games! It of course can teach you how computer programs actually work. Programming also teaches you how to think more intuitively. With that intuition, you can be creative. The sky is truly the limit when it comes to programming. Earlier exposure to programming concepts will help engage more people to pursue computer science related fields.