Thought Leadership

Teaching kids to program – why would we want to do that?

By Colin Walls

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my involvement in a program to connect schools with industry, with a particular focus on technology. Part of this activity supports a UK government initiative [there are two words that I rarely seem to use next to one another] to teach every child to program computers. In the US, I believe the plan is for everyone to know how to program, which is rather ambitious.

I am wondering about the sense in this …

The idea behind having children learning to program was to improve on the existing ICT teaching, which was just about using common types of computer software. Given that most people, in their working life, need to be familiar with such software, surely what was being taught made sense – so it seemed to me. The government are concerned that not enough young people are doing degrees in computer science etc. and want to spark an interest early.

Having seen some 10 year olds programming in Scratch, I was quite inspired. Given the right tools, even children so young can do real programming and learn the basic skills that will stand them in good stead for more complex work later on. I realized that what they were learning was much more relevant to the real world of software than the BASIC programming that was the norm when I was in my late teens.

This topic ties in perfectly with last week’s posting, when I talked about understanding  the basics of how things work. If a child learns a bit of programming, even if they never put it into practice in their career, that understanding of the principles of software development will help them appreciate a little better how applications work and why they function [or fail to function!] in a particular way.

I encountered a very nice blog that is dedicated to this subject, along with a video that really makes the point:

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at