Five-years-olds learn coding in schools to prepare for future labour market


Schools in Estonia introduced coding for pupils in 2012. [Shutterstock]

This article is part of our special report EU Code Week 2014.

SPECIAL REPORT: Learning basic computer programming is becoming mandatory curriculum in primary schools in some member states, as governments try to prepare already digital native pupils the skills they need for the labour markets of the future.

Some German states have introduced coding for high school students while Denmark is considering doing the same. Meanwhile, some schools in Estonia are teaching programming to pupils as young as six.

Just one month ago, schools in Britain started teaching pupils how to program. For children aged five and upwards, coding is now part of the new national curriculum for computing that is being introduced this term.

The British government wants to ensure “that all pupils can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science.

Apart from meeting future needs of businesses and industry, coding in the UK is also seen as a tool to make pupils think more creatively.

Secondary schools in the UK have already done much of the work, but in primary schools, the teaching has been more ‘revolutionary’.

Among the requirements, the five to seven-year-olds have to be taught what algorithms are and how they are implemented as programs on digital devices. They will also be taught how to create and debug simple programs and they will learn to use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of a program.

The curriculum is intended to be flexible so that schools can set up their own lessons, deciding whether to teach children how to make mobile apps, others introducing the Raspberry Pi and similar cheap computing devices.

Calling up educational ministers

A cross-industry coalition of EU and US technology companies, including Microsoft, Facebook and Rovio, today (14 October) sent an open letter to EU ministers for Education, calling for more computer science education in schools.

“As stewards of Europe’s future generations, you will be all too aware that as early as the age of 7, children reach a critical juncture, when they are learning the core life skills of reading, writing and basic maths. However, to flourish in tomorrow’s digital economy and society, they should be learning to code. And many, sadly, are not,” the coding coalition said in a statement.

The EU has already backed the introduction of coding in schools.

Earlier during the summer, Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, and Youth and Education Commissioner Androulla Vasiliou, likewise wrote a letter to the EU’s 28 education ministers, urging them to give every child the opportunity to develop basic coding skills at school.

In the letter, the commissioners said that children in the EU need to be better equipped to work in the digital era. Especially, at a time when youth unemployment is one of Europe’s biggest challenges.

“Coding will also directly help students to develop transversal skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving, team working, and creativity. Starting early means that they will be more inclined to consider computer science studies and ICT related careers,” they wrote.

Commissioner-designate for the Digital Internal Market, Andrus Ansip, also stated during his Commissioner hearing in the European Parliament that coding in schools should be “mandatory”.

Europe Code Week raises awareness about a skill that will only become more influential as time passes. 

Coding is the language of computers – learn to write it and you will be able to create software, websites, and apps.

It could even help to reduce the EU's stubbornly high unemployment figures and get it back on the growth track.

>> Read the EURACTIV special report on coding this week to learn more

  • 11-17 Oct.: EU Code Week

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