Why don’t more Europeans know how to code? In the past, we’ve debated why Europe is lagging behind the US in terms of tech start-ups, and asked what can be done to encourage a more entrepreneurial attitude among young Europeans. But could part of the problem be that too many Europeans see coding as too difficult to learn, and only really useful for an elite group of super smart geniuses?
The organisers argue that it has “never been easier to make your own app, build your own robot, or invent flying cars” and that there is so much creative potential in Europe waiting to be unlocked, if only more Europeans knew how to use the tools at their disposal.
So, this week, they are asking people to join Europe CodeWeek by organizing a coding event in their city or helping “spread the vision of CodeWeek” as an EU Code Week Ambassador for their country.
Despite EU unemployment being eye-wateringly high, coders are in demand. In 2010, there were roughly half-a-million businesses in the EU focused directly or indirectly on coding (i.e. enterprises in the computer programming and consultancy sector). That translates to around 2.62 million jobs.
Coders work on everything from designing online multiplayer worlds, mobile applications and videogames to developing websites, payment systems and online security for companies. Every sector of the economy relies on coders – from manufacturing (e.g. designing 3D simulations to test and improve products) to healthcare (e.g. creating remote monitoring systems for patients, designing security and privacy for medical records, etc.).
As part of our Debating Europe Schools project, we spoke to some students interesting in learning more. We took some of their questions to EU CodeWeek Ambassadors from across Europe, to see how they would respond.
First up, we started with a question from Beatrise, a student from the Kuldīgas Centra vidusskola in Latvia. She wanted to know if coding was really necessary for people who aren’t interested in computer science. To get a response, we spoke to Steve Clement, a professional hacker and EU CodeWeek Ambassador for Luxembourg.
We also took Beatrise’s question to Julie Cullen, a teacher and Irish Ambassador for EU Code Week. Did she think coding could benefit everybody, even if they weren’t planning a career in computer science?
I think that computer coding can cross the spectrum of careers. So, for example, I’m a teacher of English and European Studies. I don’t teach coding, I don’t teach IT, I don’t teach computers. However, I do manage to incorporate coding into my classes when, for example, my students have to create their own website for an English project. So, even though I wasn’t teaching IT, I was able to incorporate coding into my classroom. And I think this cross-curricula approach is important. Rather than just saying “It’s only for computer science”, the truth is that everybody uses apps, everybody uses computers, so we should all know how they work and how to tell them what we want them to do.
Finally, we had a video question sent in from Rodrigo asking what skills are necessary to start learning computer coding:
We took this question to Spyros Blatsios, an IT teacher and Greek EU CodeWeek Ambassador. Here’s what he had to say:
Learning to code really doesn’t really require many skills. Some basic math is necessary, but I think the most appropriate skill is logic. You need to understand programming logic, and that’s something you learn by trying. With time, you’ll get better and better. And that’s the only skill you need, nothing more than that.
Is coding for everybody? Could all Europeans benefit from learning how to code? Or would it only really help those interested in a career in coding? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – hackNY.org