Note to Readers: MC ExpertEye is a weekly series of articles that will dive deeply into an important topic by seeking answers from experts.
One of the most raging debates in recent times has centred on the practice of children diving into coding at an early age. Those in agreement have argued that learning to code is fun, opens up a world of possibilities and prepares them for the future.
Those against have contested that coding harms childhood, a period when children should be playing outdoors. We asked a bunch of experts to hear their views. Take a look at what they have to say.
Sahil Sheth, Founder and CEO, Lido Learning
I think the more pertinent question is not when, but why should children learn coding, and who should learn it.
The second part is easy enough to answer — children who show an interest in something, be it coding or anything else, should be encouraged to learn it. But children who do not enjoy coding should not be forced to learn it. I’ve always believed that learning and education should be a joyful, participative experience for a child.
Now for the first part. Of course, I believe that children should learn coding. I’ve built a whole company around that belief! But jokes aside, coding is a beautiful and powerful tool in the hands of children, who, I believe, have far superior and untethered imaginations than we adults could ever hope to possess.
I know that lately there’s been a lot of pushback against the overzealous marketing of coding for children. Perhaps some of it is justified — it’s not the end of the world if your child doesn’t learn it from the time, they are old enough to hold a tablet! And no, not every future job is going to require children to know complex programming languages.
To me, the ability to code is simply a bridge between what education for our children should have been, and what it is. If education had kept pace with technology, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Our mobile devices today are 100,000 times faster and have 10 million times more memory than the first low-cost home computer in the 80s.
Doesn’t it seem wrong to not learn the language that enables this kind of unimaginable growth? We don’t argue about whether children should learn explosive advancements in science or maths, then why this aversion towards the language of technology?
Learning how to code is about giving every child the power to create virtual words that have no boundaries, save their own creativity. I believe every child deserves to have this power. So yes, you can say that I’m a big champion of coding for children!
Anand Prasanna, managing partner, Iron Pillar Fund.
Not necessarily. Coding is a skillset that can be acquired later in life. It is far more crucial that kids understand concepts such as logic instead. As we all know, time is our most precious commodity. The limited time kids have should be focused on more foundational aspects of learning, free play (yes playing), problem solving, social and communication skills rather than trying to “check the box”, and burn themselves out in the process.
If one is adamant about having the child learn to code, one should make sure that the curriculum is focused around design thinking and computer logic. Understanding how computers solve problems by learning to code will be a useful skill to have in an increasingly digitized world and will have a more lasting impact than say, learning Python.
A class focused solely on syntax or a particular language may not be as useful in the long run. This is analogous to the difference between learning fundamentals of math from a teacher who explains practical applications and embeds the core concepts in the mind of the learner, as compared to someone who focuses purely on rote learning. The former can generate love for math within the child.
The latter, on the other hand, will likely lead to the child disliking math. Context and content are both important when teaching kids how to code. Using brute force without the fundamental building blocks may have unintended consequences, and may make the child hate coding for life!
Mukund Jha, Chief Technology Officer, Dunzo
If the market is trying to create a FOMO (Fear of missing out) around coding probably that’s not the best thing. I think, if it is trying to sort of capture the existing curiosity and enhance that, I think that is a good thing. In fact, if you look at a large portion of people who do engineering, actually don’t do software.
A lot of our friends have actually graduated as software engineers and had absolutely zero interest in writing code. So I don’t think, if your interest is not there, (it’s something for you). In fact, a lot of the people are actually forced into these careers.
I think it’s important to pursue their interests. One of my fundamental beliefs is that you need to work on things that are really exciting for you so that work doesn’t feel stressful. Early on if you are able to get a chance to explore, explore it and say, okay, whether this is for me or not. I think that’s a good thing.
But I think if it is becoming something like force feeding, I think it’s not going to help them become better coders, because it’s probably going to be a burden on them,” he added.
In terms of this rush to learn coding, I personally feel it’s a good trend. Coding helps you do two things, one it sort of helps you think logically. I think the second thing it does is it really opens up people to the possibility that they can actually create things. And they can actually imagine something and actually make it a reality in terms of what is possible in a virtual world today, at least.
Kartik Sharma, CEO and Co-Founder of KShark Apps.
I started learning to code when I was 18 and I absolutely fell in love with it the first time. Now coding is something which can be learned at any age but ideally the right time is 12-13. Many companies are pushing the agenda that it’s necessary for a child to start coding around 7 if they want to succeed which is incorrect.
At that age we should let the kids choose what interests them and if coding is something that grabs their attention, by all means, we should support them in that endeavour. Moreover, in the age of AI, there is a chance manual coding might become redundant in 10-20 years and you just have to tell the computer what you want and it will automatically write the code for it.