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Coding: Need of the hour or just FOMO

Coding is all over social media and TV these days. The government plans to introduce coding from class 6. But is the hype really justified? What should be the ripe age to teach coding to kids? Is exposing kids as small as six or seven to coding good?

I came across the word ‘coding’ on social media when celebrity influencers were seen talking about it, often arguing that it is the most ‘in’ thing and that is why they are enrolling their children for the course. It was all over on most social media platforms, so it was bound to catch my attention again and again.

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When the Government of India introduced the National Education Policy 2020, one of the prominent reforms was the initiation of classes on ‘coding’ for students from class 6. The argument is introducing coding and increasing exposure to technology at a young age will help the youth lead the way to a world of innovation and creativity, and give them an opportunity to set their goals and reach new heights. So it made me think more about coding.

But while talking to a professor in NEHU (North-Eastern Hill University), it made me ponder. He was talking about ads, promoting teaching coding to very young kids. He says, “This really baffles me to see how this new phenomenon is being pushed into our lives. Kids are meant to play, let them be kids and not a programmer. It is worrying that parents are going with the flow, and people are calling me to teach coding to their kids.”    

I told him that if the new education policy is implemented, then they might introduce coding from class 6 in schools. To that he smiled and said, “Class 6 is still acceptable, but primary level?”

The death of Sushant Singh Rajput was all over the news and one of the things that was said about him was that he was intelligent, a thinker and a visionary. After the announcement of several reforms under the New Education Policy, a clip of Sushant Singh Rajput's video went viral, where he was stressing on the need to have coding in school curriculum. "65% of the students who are going to kindergarten this year will do jobs in technology that we haven't invented yet," Sushant said in an old interview, adding that in a situation like this, even schools are clueless as to what to teach. He said coding will have to be included in the curriculum as this is going to be the language we will need in the next few years. So I got another point to convince myself that yes, may be coding is the future.

Immediately after, I came across one such ad on social media promoting free one-hour coding session on weekends for children up to 14 years. The ad had the picture of Sundar Pichai, the Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google LLC. To be frank, the picture of Pichai convinced me more to give a thought about it as I have a 12-year-old at home. In the comment section, a lot of parents even enquired whether Pichai would take the session. But I was sure he won’t. But still, we registered for our son and finally the day came.

After a few initial glitches, the class started. And we were in the next room, we could hear our son’s voice on and off. After about 45 minutes, we just thought we should peep what our son was doing. And we could see him engrossed in the session. After the session was over, the teacher called us to give feedback about our son. We could make from our son’s face that he liked the session. The teacher told us that they don’t try to convince all parents to enrol their kids for the course but only do that when they see real interest in the children. And that our son had completed the session successfully. They also sent us the programing he made with the help of the online teacher. The education counsellor tried hard to convince us, but for now, we said no to enrolling for the classes as his exam was going on — even though we are bombarded with emails almost every day.

Meanwhile, one of the ads being telecast on television and is all over social media.

Whenever our son sees this ad, he keeps on reminding us that he really liked the coding session.

We told him that let’s see if coding is introduced in school in the next academic session. If yes, then definitely he could choose that option. If no, then we would enrol him in some coding course for a month in the next summer vacations.

My son will be in class 8 next year and I will be happy if coding is introduced in schools. I am okay with it because he understood it and he is really interested to explore more of it.

My son is old enough to understand if he should go for coding or if he has that aptitude so that he can pursue it further in life.

Now the question remains how right is it to force children as young as six or seven years to introduce coding in their lives — in fact most coding ads show very young children who seem to be very happy making their own apps, marking it as some kind of achievement.

In fact, there have been studies galore on how over-exposure to technology can have a negative bearing on children and lead to health and psychological problems. Social media users have also not taken kindly to the carpet-bombing of coding ads, perceiving them as an intention to force-feed parents into accepting coding — creating some kind of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Should parents go with the flow just because it’s all over social media? Or should we not let kids be happy in their own beautiful world and enjoy their childhood and let them take a call when time is ripe for them? Maybe it is time for a debate.


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