By Rahul Ranjan
Coding education for young children is the new buzzword in the Edtech space. Indians are known to be great programmers and we produce a million of them annually; thanks to thousands of engineering colleges which came up during the IT boom at the beginning of this millennium. So why do we need kids to learn coding at an early age? Do we want to produce more engineers? What about other professionals like lawyers, architects, doctors, artists, musicians and photographers?
The answer lies in what kids actually learn with Coding classes for Kids – Computational Thinking and Algorithmic Intelligence. In simple terms, the ability to break down a problem in a structured form and use different faculties like arts, creativity, problem solving to design the solution.
The next key question is – ‘Why do our kids need this, since we never learned to code?’ It is pertinent and a great question from a parent’s perspective. After all, they come from all walks of life and are successful without having learned any form of Coding. Had our world not evolved technologically, these questions would be as pertinent as always.
However, our world today is being shaped by artificial intelligence – From Edtech to Foodtech to LegalTech and AgriTech; intelligent technology is driving everything. Imagine a five-year-old of today, growing on to become a lawyer 20 years down the line. Will the courts and legal transactions remain the same as today? Certainly not. We already have simple things like Stamp Duty and filings moving online. Our elderly, who are not well versed with Computer Technology, struggle to work with basics. In the AI age of tomorrow, a Lawyer would be expected to understand the basics of Computing and the use of AI-driven tools, apart from being an excellent Law Grad.
Medical professionals of the future would be no different. Covid19 Pandemic moved lots of doctors and medical processes online. In the future world 15 years from now, almost all processes from basic tasks like writing prescriptions to elaborate ones like diagnosing complex ailments will be AI-driven. It will be necessary for doctors to understand AI as much as they understand the human body.
A music producer friend of mine based out of Los Angeles spoke about his struggles in the world rapidly adopting Intelligent Technology like AI. He says that unlike 12 years ago when he graduated from music school when the music would be recorded with vocals in a single setting; today music tech is used to sync vocals, instrumentals, and other audio inputs. When he moved to LA from Mumbai, the problem of not understanding technology dawned on him.
The last and most important question – ‘What and how long to learn?’ Start with tools like Scratch Junior available for Android and iOS. It is a free tool and a great way to introduce your child to Computational Thinking & Algorithmic Intelligence (CTAI). If your child loves what he does on Scratch Jr, then sign up for a Teacher-Led program for 12-16 hours. For most kids, this exposure clubbed with self-tinkering with projects would be a tremendous solid foundation in CTAI. It’s as good as some kids excelling in Mathematics and some opting for non-Mathematics based careers and excelling in it.
And then we always have some students who would want to excel in CTAI and opt for new-age careers in AI, Machine Learning and Game Design. For such kids, they should sign up for courses in Python, which is an elementary gateway to Machine Learning.
This is another popular query. ‘Will my child get a certificate?’ A certificate is essentially a document that can be shared with a third party to testify that your child has completed and aced a subject matter. Sign up for courses that allow your child to be assessed on learning outcomes and gives an opportunity to them to get a graded certificate by third party independent authority. In the Indian context, it would be like a CBSE/ICSE/IB board assessing your child at the end of school tenure.
(The writer is the co-founder of LeapLearner India. He is a Gold Medalist from NIT Bhopal and a Management grad from Chicago Booth. Views are personal)