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The Current NEP 2020 Debate On Coding Classes In Middle School – Which Side Are You On?

Posted: October 30, 2020

With NEP 2020 recommending coding classes in 6th grade, even big businesses getting into it, but parents worried, we wonder – is it really a good idea?

The newly minted National Education Policy NEP 2020 has posited coding as a basic skill to be learnt at 6th grade level. Should coding classes be included in the middle school curriculum?

If we draw up a list of threats that the world could potentially face, a good share would relate to intellectual property, data security, privacy, cyber-crime and governance and so on. As I type this on to a laptop, I think it is safe to say that our greatest asset and yet our biggest bane is technology.

In a world where our identity boils down to a set of letters and numbers, is data science the centre of our being? How important is the knowledge of it? At what age should our children need to take coding classes? Should we be assembling an army of young Zuckerbergs?

Do children need to know how to code?

Perhaps, there was once a time when your golden ticket to a company was a posed idea, or a distinct outlook. However today, we live in a world that requires us to ‘show and tell’. Coding could be aiding just that.

Digital ideas fit a digitised world- it takes a code for your stellar idea to materialise into an entity you can present as your own. But how early should you prepare to code for that idea? Besides filling up political maps or summarising 2 times 2, should school children have the know-how to create apps of their own?

“Yes, I do think coding classes should be a part of primary and secondary school curriculum in some shape or form (e.g. micro-bit coding). This will instil basics at a young age and nurture as they grow,” says the parent of a pre-teen, working in IT himself.

While there may be many arguments for the development of this skill, how early should children begin? Should this be a skill they develop alongside academics? Does coding now have the same degree of importance?

“It can be taught as a skill or part of academics, may be after age of 10. Until then they should learn basic skills,” says another parent working in a technical field.

Is coding a ‘basic skill’ today?

However, there are differing views to whether coding should be considered a bare minimum in academics. “I think it could be offered as a hobby or after school activity. It’s not a basic skill that needs to be included in the curriculum,” says a school educator, and parent of a teen.

Adding on, many are worried that the screen now takes up a space that was once meant for social discussion and conversation. “Too much focus on this can cause less social skills and interpersonal skills,” says a parent of a teen.

The advocacy for young children taking coding classes also comes from the belief that the skill could aid logical skills- that could be used in fields of and outside technology. However in this case, many believe that coding does not necessarily have to be the way to go. Coding may not be the only way to broaden problem-solving and analytical skills. “There are various activities and skills that aid logical abilities and problem solving skills. Coding is not the answer for developing these skills,” says an educator.

Many also argue that children must have this skill because there is now a code behind everything around them- apps, prototypes, software and websites. If you don’t know the brick and mortar that built your house, what really do you know?

Then again, when are you required to build a brick and mortar building? When does a child realise the actual application of a coding language? “One must realise the application of a language before you code. Coding in my opinion, should be taught once a student realises its application, preferably post class 12,” says the parent of a fifteen year old.

Do everyone need to take coding classes?

Technocrats work in all fields- do they all require to code? Will I as a medical practitioner, politician or historian require to code too? Do all children then, need to code?

There are arguments that coding will, in the near future become a required skill everywhere, relevant in each field. Coding then would be part of a “holistic view”.

However, while coding may be an added skill for a professional, is it a requirement? The structure of most companies today is based on delegation- tasks are assigned according to the expertise of each person. Can coding not be delegated to experts?

“This is a question that could have a yes and no answer. If online classes continue and each teacher wants to have a different way of assessment, maybe coding will help the teacher create her own modules. At the same time, can’t a few coding specialists do it for the teachers?” says a working educator.

Could we be overestimating the requirement of a skill? After all, if you are a working professional in a non-technical field, isn’t coding only a part of the final product you build? “Coding won’t be necessary for all fields. There will be technical people who make software for all fields and automate the processes,” says an engineering professional.

Coding classes – a requirement v/s a trend

Earlier in the decade, coding was simply a hobby or a skill. A section of people who enjoyed it created websites, and a section within that, made it big- the product was the apps we mindlessly use today. However, these projects were a product of interest. This begs the question, should coding be imposed on younger children? Are educators, experts and parents hopping on a bandwagon without much thought?

“Coding is a skill where you don’t have to be the very best or the have best tutors express your ideas. It is after all a language, and you don’t have to be a linguistic expert to merely speak it. Do you have the next big idea and need to make an app? Decent coding skills will get you there. Do you want to customize certain software to your liking? Look it up – learning to code is extremely accessible and all it needs is your interest,” says a college student, 20, recently employed in the field of data science.

The larger picture

While both sides may have relevant arguments, we must also remember that they exist in a sphere of parents and children who have access to skill-training and education.

For the rest of the country, a skill relevant to the service sector may mean something different. If all schools including government ones do decide to inculcate coding, all sections will have access to the skill. For a child from an underprivileged section, coding may be the ticket to a job in the top tiers of the service sector.

In this case, I think a balanced argument would be that while coding must not be imposed on all, the access to such a skill could change the reality for many.

Image source: shutterstock via Canva Pro 

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A student of International Relations at Shiv Nadar University. Enjoys old bands and acrylics.

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