Skip to main content

Online education? Why kids need a world filled with colours, not coding skills

By Anirudh Agarwal*

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” -- Albert Einstein
Coding is a short reference to the use of programming languages to provide lengthy sets of instructions for a computer to perform specific tasks. The continuous lines of text written behind the fancy looking websites and apps are what constitute as code for the application. The idea of the programming language being very similar to human languages like English or French has been debated a long time.
While learning English or French, a student learns to talk and recite as well as write while people communicating with them immediately understand any mistakes and make corrections. However, a computer language cannot be spoken, its only written and doesn’t talk about real world objects like apples, oranges or clouds.
The ‘objects’ in code have a completely different connotation. If a single comma (,) also goes out of place, the computer is not smart enough to spell check or be able to correct you, it’ll only reply with an error. Now imagine a long set of instructions and the countless errors the computer can throw, that testing for errors is actually a full-time IT job role.

Small kids and coding

Recently, the country has seen a growing trend where parents are having their small kids as old as 6 years learn coding through online platforms. The idea of coding is painted in such bright light while the reality is far from it. Coding is not a world filled with colours, robot designs, and games. It’s rather the opposite of it, where it writes colours as 6 digit numbers, pictures as another set of defined words and is devoid of any real world creativity.
The advertisements circling around how kids could become millionaire CEOs after learning to code and misleading quotes from top CEOs like Sundar Pichai, Bill Gates, etc. are taken out of context to fuel the peer pressure to learn coding.
Presently, small kids are already subjected to tuitions and coaching with parents trying their best to get their kids to learn as many things as possible, just so their kid wouldn’t be left behind in this imaginary race against others. Simantini Dhuru, a film director, social activist and ardent promoter of the Avehi Abacus Project (which creates educational material to help students understand the link between their different subjects); says she is hardly surprised by this.
With India being the largest education market and on the boom of technology, companies are going to drive the young generation to make profits especially on the shoulder of parents who are highly aspirational. She agrees that parents feel that Coding is something their kids need to learn early or they might miss the train.
Many academicians believe that early education should be more open-ended and interactive, before kids can grow up to become “experts” in any field. Margaret Leary, chair and director of curriculum at the National Cyberwatch Centre is stated to say that studies have shown that every 2 years, 60% of technical skills become obsolete, which means that programming language learnt at the age of 5 or 6 will essentially be of no use by the time the child is at 20.

The Fear of missing out (FOMO)

The fear of missing out on the technological revolution by not participating in coding is completely misplaced. For kids to be successful in a technology world, they should rather think more creatively, innovatively and expansively. Saying coding jobs are the most in-demand jobs is a bit of a misleading statement. Even within IT sector there are many different kinds of jobs.
Those who are just involved in testing, some roles are actually maintenance crew given that software glitches and problems happen all the time with the clients using the software, while only some are actually writing a part of a new software. In India, contrary to the popular belief, sales and marketing jobs are the most in-demand, and not IT jobs, according to a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup India in early 2020.
Misleading quotes from top CEOs like Sundar Pichai, Bill Gates, etc. are taken out of context to fuel the peer pressure to learn coding
Recently, Pradeep Poonia, an engineer who had gone on to criticize the ed-tech startup WhiteHarJr.’s marketing tactics calling it a Ponzi scheme. Byju’s WhiteHarJr. aims to provide coaching of coding to kids aged 6-14 and Poonia claims that the much advertised Wolf Gupta, who is a 13-year old kid that learnt AI and got a job at Google for some crore rupee package is completely bogus.
The ASCI has asked Byju’s owned coding startup to take down its some of its advertisements against complaints that they made fake and misleading claims. The marketing message is again intended to induce fear among parents that their kid might miss out on something revolutionary.
Experts of any field do not start that young at the age of 6-10. Take surgeons, physicists, astronauts or even lawyers as examples, none of them start out so early. No big lawyer was understanding the legal framework of the constitution being six years old so why should being a software developer be any different. The majority of the successful technological experts did not start so early, yet the few examples of who did are highlighted in the media.

Thinking skills, not coding skills

The kids have only a limited bandwidth after their school. In that free time, they can either learn to code or enjoy crayoning, exercising, interact with different people and expand their horizons of thought. Engaging in creative thought activity brings out ideas and shapes their understanding of the world. It builds their ability to think of the world in a different way and identify problems in everyday life that can be solved.
Sundar Pichai is not known for his coding skills, he is rather appreciated for his vision of the Google Chrome web browser. Bill Gates may have started coding early, but his vision for Microsoft is what made him successful and not his ability to code windows.
Similarly, today we have entrepreneurs, scientists and even software developers thinking about the next frontier because learning to code as Dhuru says is like becoming an electrician. You can fix a light bulb if it goes bad yourself or you could get someone to do it but thinking about the functioning of the bulb or the smartphone is not something enabled by learning to code.

What parents should be do

Parents should take a step back and evaluate, what their child is ultimately gaining from this exercise. There are alternate activities that can keep the child engaged like learning a musical instrument or even dancing. Parents should think back to their childhood about all the times spent playing and crayoning, and that would now be deprived from their children in the name of coding.
The future is about innovation, not just in technology but actually in thought as all technology we see today are tangible outcomes of ideas. Those ideas are worth millions and not the product. An Iphone today costs about 1 lakh rupees give or take, depending upon the model you choose but the ideas behind making the iphone powers the trillion dollar apple company. Investing in developing moral values in children and engaging them in creative activity will be most beneficial as well as help them have happy childhood memories for life.
---
*Second year MBA student at Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, graduated as Electrical Engineer from IIT Kharagpur

Comments

TRENDING

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Khorigaon demolition: People being 'brutally' evicted, cops 'restricting' food, water

By Ishita Chatterjee, Neelesh Kumar, Manju Menon, Vimal Bhai* On July 23, the Faridabad Municipal Corporation told the Supreme Court that they have cleared 74 acres out of 150 acres. Despite the affidavit of the Municipal Corporation, the court, on the complaint of various litigants, that the arrangements for living, food etc. have not been made for the people.