Not one of my four children have been taught to code. Yet three of them can, and one is extremely adept. For me, coding is on the event horizon of education - or Education (capital E), because we still misunderstand how children learn and persist in seeking to quantify, quality check and present a body of information to be relayed to the next generation as if Gladstonian Liberalism were still the cutting edge of education planning. I believe the Coding question will define how the next generation of children learn, and what is fascinating is that we had the answer all along.
Home Educators long ago twigged that children learn when one is looking. In fact, formal education (school) often gets in the way of learning and positively impedes the education of far too many children. Trying to define (let alone impose) a one-size-fits-all criteria is as sensible as attempting to find a universal means of delivery. The world is moving on at an alarming rate, and there are multiple media platforms for children to learn from, what matters is not the method of delivery or method of learning but that they are enthused, involved and understanding what they participate in. The learning will just happen - you can't stop it.
I used to believe firmly that a "good education" was essential to do well in life. That excellent teaching and practice were the only route to success. Then I had a child who didn't fit the mould - and I discovered I needed to learn about him first, before allowing him to define his own modus operandi.
What I least expected was that he chose - and continues to choose - to refuse any kind of definition, and is a child who will never fit any mould ever invented. He has spent almost as much time out of school as in, and although he has undoubtedly received a "good education" at times, 95% of his (considerable) knowledge is not from school. Interest piqued he will devour books, research online and learn from YouTube lectures. He sees no boundaries, no age-appropriate restrictions on learning and just feels his way forward. It's this "can-do" attitude that has enabled him to partition hard-drives, learn about quantum theory and Elvish. He can draw Middle Earth from memory, recite all Terry Pratchett's books in order and produce a graph of GDP per capita against the political standpoint of most world governments to evaluate his assertion that right wing governments are richer.
But had any of that been discussed in school and set as homework he would never have got started.
And this is precisely my point with coding. Learning to code any computer requires a degree of confidence and willingness to feel your way. Learning to code can never be predetermined, the art of coding evolves daily. Immersion is probably the only real method of "teaching" the subject, but to try and define what should be learned in any specific time frame is to utterly misunderstand the concept of acquiring skills and knowledge in this area. Crucially perhaps, if coding were a formalised subject in any school curriculum then fear of failure would prevent the majority of kids accessing it.
Educators need to wake up and realise that this is a problem within society, and how we view our children's education is in fact holding our kids back - not whether we tack coding on to the school curriculum. Stop demonising computers and screen time, and teach children to be critical and analytical instead. There is a huge difference between playing a simple app game for two hours and spending the same time trying to programme a Minecraft "Mod", and not all games are equal. If we continue to use computer time as a carrot, rather than an integral tool for learning that children can learn to use appropriately we strait jacket the next generation in an anachronistic bubble.
Traditional education needs to metamorphosis to embrace the future, and
the coding question is key.
If we want to formalise and define Education, it needs to be fit for purpose - to equip the younger generation of today for the demands of tomorrow. To that end, it needs to be flexible and future proof, and our children must be independent thinkers and learners. Education in the future is likely to involve more guidance and less imparting of knowledge - and that's true of parenting too.
Today's kids are learning to code in spite of their curriculum at school - they see the need and feel the excitement. Now it's time for schools to embrace this new style of learning more, not rein it back. Our education system does need overhauling, but with an eye on tomorrow, not the past.