Computer coding is now taught to all five-year-olds in England’s state schools. There are compelling reasons to adopt that policy in all UAE schools too. Silvia Razgova / The National
Regardless of whether computers fill one with excitement or invoke dystopian images from The Matrix, few would dispute the importance of learning the secrets of how to program them. As The National reported yesterday, computer coding is now taught to all five-year-olds in England’s state schools. There are compelling reasons to adopt that policy in all UAE schools too.
One reason will be obvious to anyone who has seen a toddler master the operation of an iPad or a similar tablet device. Touchscreens have revolutionised computer use and made them accessible to a much younger age group than could cope with keyboards, creating a generation where nearly all children are savvy tablet users. This ability can be leveraged through offering introductory coding classes at a young age at all schools, not just the few pioneering schools that already offer it.
For the UAE, there are additional benefits. One is that learning coding skills is squarely in line with this country’s oft-stated goal to become a knowledge economy with well-paid jobs that require high skills.
Another is that, unlike the language barriers that sometimes exist between the diverse communities that make up society in the Emirates, computer coding is a global language. Someone in Abu Dhabi writing code in a popular computer language like C, Java or PHP will be able to understand those doing the same thing in New York, Mumbai, Tokyo or even Timbuktu.
A third point in favour of compulsory coding classes is that the jobs that will flow from computer coding skills can be located anywhere – thanks to the internet.
Our world-standard infrastructure means that being located in Arabia is no longer a barrier to participating in global tech hubs like California, Bangalore or Shanghai. With the increasingly 24-7 nature of the working cycle, being in this time zone can even be an advantage.