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All the question words of curriculum: what, what, who, when?!

I was prompted to write this after reading that Andreas Schleicher of the OECD believes that the teaching of coding within the English curriculum will soon become obsolete. He likens the teaching of coding to the teaching of trigonometry. He believes that trig is taught only because it is applicable in certain situations mathematically but is not a fundamental in maths. I will address the trigonometry part of his views, then the coding bit here.

I read the article starting with the view point that coding does seem quite an obscure thing to teach primary school learners and that trig is really not only taught “because it used to be relevant in a specific historical context”. I have an engineering degree which used trig for pretty much everything- that’s not a specific historical context but rather a dynamic modern application of an important area of maths. I find it quite concerning that someone with such a high profile within education, with degree-level maths sees this subject thus. It seems a very narrow mindset.

This brings me to his view of coding within the curriculum. Mr Schleicher says that coding within the English curriculum will soon become obsolete in the way that other areas of learning have over the course of time. While I understand that coding languages do move on, I am pretty sure that the thought processes involved in coding do not move on and do not become obsolete. While I am categorically not an expert on coding whatsoever, I am given to believe that logic and flow-chart type thinking skills are the foundation of coding, so at the very least teaching and using these must surely be of use. It just doesn’t seem to chime with me that society gains little to no benefit over time from having children who have some understanding of the basis of coding.

Whether coding at primary school should be compulsory or not I think is a slightly different matter. I have very mixed and unresolved feelings about it, as I have learners who are unable to type, save documents and send emails in year 9. I do tend towards thinking that teaching kids to use computers earlier on would be beneficial over coding and then giving them access to coding through their secondary schooling may be better. I have no evidence for this, just my own gut feeling and experience around teaching young learners.

But to decry a whole subject as soon becoming outdated as Mr Schleicher has done seems to be very short-sighted. My physics A-level contained wave-particle duality. My Dad’s did not. My student’s A level physics contained the Large Hadron Collider 2 years ago and mine did not. Content moves on, but that does not mean the whole subject should ‘go’ or will become obsolete.

I just seem to have argued for coding in the curriculum to some extent. Not what I’d ever have imagined doing!