— Dr Ashley Tan (@ashley) February 24, 2016
This news article called coding a “new language”. Linguists would disagree because they do not take the definition of language as lightly as journalists. For that matter, ask those in the fields of coding, computer science, and computational thinking and they might provide different perspectives as well.
When the latter group of people are not consulted, almost anything counts as “coding”. When that happens, the only ones who really benefit are vendors who pull the wool over the eyes of parents.
Take one example from the news article:
The course spans four sessions and costs about S$300 according to Mr Koh, who said he hoped his son would gain “exposure and self-achievement” from the class.
“It would be some use to him in the future, hopefully,” he said, adding that he views coding as a “life skill”.
How exactly will learning how to “code” now help him in the future? The same way all other just-in-case instruction helps in the future? What teacher-led lessons do you remember from when you were in Primary 3 (the age of the boy)? Why does “coding” not have any utility now?
There is wool over the eyes and there is wooly thinking. Here is another quote from a different parent:
Technology is starting to become “part and parcel” of our everyday lives, and while it used to be just those in the workforce and tertiary institutions who had to contend with it, the age “has gone down even earlier”. “My son, who just entered Primary 1, already has to do his homework online,” she said.
First, unless you live under a rock on a remote island (perhaps when Singapore was still a small fishing village), technology is already part and parcel of our everyday lives. It is not becoming.
Second, having to do homework online is not a good reason for “coding” enrichment. Unless the homework was actually about coding. At the Primary 1 level.
I am not against coding or computational thinking. I am against news articles that are serve as ad-ticles (advertisements for vendors that are disguised as newsworthy articles).
My guess is that someone wanted to push the coding agenda forward but decided to lead with a human interest story. If you read the responses of the parents that the journalist chose to highlight, you will realise that the parents are going in blind and vendors are taking advantage of this.
Despite all this, the kids stand to benefit because a curriculum not constrained by tests or legacy processes will feel like a breath of fresh air. They will get to explore, create, and make mistakes. Hopefully.
But let us not kid ourselves into thinking it will help with their homework now or that it has something to do with an undefined future.
Decode ad-ticles and vendor-speak. Find out how it helps kids now and seek evidence of learning. Do this not because you paid good money for the experience. Do this because you want to educate your child, not school him/her.