Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Coding, today's modern language

We need to invest in what Generation Z are learning now, says Mark Armstrong, VP & MD EMEA, Progress Software

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | September 24, 2015 | People

As the most recent GCSE and A-level results were announced at the end of August, there seemed to be a lot of hand-wringing in the media about the fall in the number of students studying French, German and Spanish and what that might mean for skills in the global business market. I couldn’t help but think about my own school days. Like me, you might remember hours spent learning verb tables and how to ask someone, in French, for two beers please. I never felt this would be much use in life (apart from the beer) and if I’m brutally honest, in business. I’ve forgot almost everything I learnt. 

The concern that our children will be less equipped without these languages is somewhat misplaced. The reality is that, including the more widely spoken languages of Arabic and Mandarin, there are many more important languages shaping business today; I’m talking the likes of Objective-C, JavaScript and Python. The real business languages of today have more to do with programming than with pronunciation, although Syntax is still important.

'More investment in computer science and how we can encourage better uptake of these kinds of subjects should be central to any discussion around education, especially in a world where the global spoken business language is often English and innovations are written in code'

Trends such as the new multichannel, mobile and social digital landscape have driven the importance of apps and multimedia content as ways of engaging with customers across new channels. Creating and integrating these content formats with each other relies on knowing what is going on under the bonnet – being able to read and use the code. More investment in computer science and how we can encourage better uptake of these kinds of subjects should be central to any discussion around education, especially in a world where the global spoken business language is often English and innovations are written in code. 

The cornerstone to competitiveness; meeting tomorrow’s skill demands

Global business today is driven by technology. More businesses are looking to business apps and the Internet of Things to unlock revenue streams and improve efficiency, while business leaders are exploring how they equip their future workforces with the skills and tools to build these applications.

Successive governments have indicated their desire to put the UK at the centre of the global tech economy. Various regions are trying to stimulate their own ‘Tech Hubs’ to make the most of this opportunity with Edinburgh the latest to follow Manchester, Birmingham and London to claim that status. For the success of the British economy, this is great news. Success, however, is ensuring a flow of talent to make these hubs worthwhile. 

With Generation Z (currently 14-19 year olds) proclaimed the hyper tech-savvy generation and pioneers for the truly digital workforce it is worth taking an interest and investing in what they are learning now, so that they truly do have the predicted digital skills and output in the future. Teaching pupils’ skills in handling data, integrating it into applications and problem-solving is vital. Doing so will leave the next-generation better prepared, and our UK businesses at a distinct advantage.

The road to digital learning has been partially paved

There are already efforts to foster talent growth amongst pupils: the BBC recently launched the spiritual successor to the BBC Micro, the Micro:bit to help teach children to code. Likewise, the Raspberry Pi and software programmes such as Scratch are being used in classrooms to help teach pupils the programming basics. Even the likes of Barclays are getting in on the act with their ‘Digital Eagles’ programme.

'We need to put more programmes in place that cultivate talent from a younger age. As with learning any language, JavaScript is more easily learnt and comes more naturally if you grow up with'

These efforts should not be underestimated by any means but if we’re to meet our own expectations it’s frankly not enough. Just tacking coding on to the curriculum won’t do. This has been half the problem with foreign languages to date. Pupils learning just two hours a week, from ages 11-14 won’t help a generation speak the language of future businesses fluently; it will be the equivalent of giving them an old phrasebook and them shouting slowly at confused waiters. We need to put more programmes in place that cultivate talent from a younger age. As with learning any language, JavaScript is more easily learnt and comes more naturally if you grow up with it. 

Growing future digital skills, now

Foreign languages are important – this can’t be denied. However, there needs to be an all-round commitment to teaching skills that are ripe for use in today and tomorrow’s workplace rather than simply ticking a traditional box. Programming languages are the languages that will power the future enterprise. By providing students with the support and tools to learn how to code we’ll be creating a workforce that is fluent in business. That can only be a good thing. 

W: www.progress.com 

Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

Tech it or leave it: Joachim Horn

Coding for kids with UBTECH and Manchester City FC

FXP Festival now open to entries in East Anglia

Market place - view all

ASK 4

ASK4 is an industry leading provider of high-speed Internet solutio...

Fujitsu

Fujitsu provide information technology solutions for businesses inc...

Panopto AT

Panopto is a software company that provides lecture recording, scr...