According to a recent report by Richard Florida, Sweden was ranked 5th in the league table of the world’s leading tech economies in 2011. This comes as no surprise: Sweden has been at the forefront of digital innovation for over a decade. However times change, and nowhere do they change faster than in the world of modern technology. Right now China has more than 1.2M qualified IT professionals, and is producing tech graduates at a rate of over 400K a year (and climbing). By contrast Sweden has only 100K graduates in total each year, while its PISA rating (the performance of 15 year olds as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment) is falling. Sweden is now ranked a lowly 22 out of 36 in the latest PISA rankings.
In the UK kids between the ages of 11 and 14 are now expected to be able to programme in two or more programming languages. By contrast Sweden lags well behind, and still has no plans to introduce the art of coding into the school curriculum. In Swedish schools, kids are being taught to be passive technology consumers; we need them to be active technology creators.
If your perception of coding is that it is a nerdy skill practised by a few socially awkward geeks, you’re wrong. Just as English has risen to be the dominant language of international money and trade, so has the ability to code become the modern language of technology, innovation and global digital commerce. It would be unimaginable to not teach our future citizens English. Why then is it seemingly OK for our kids to not learn the skill of coding?
But being able to code is so much more than teaching kids how to control computers. It means teaching kids how to divide problems into smaller, manageable parts; it means teaching kids how to break things and fail, fix it and then try again; and it means teaching kids the value of working together as a team to solve complex problems.
To prepare for an uncertain future where technology is king and innovation and change is constant, Sweden is going to need a whole generation of kids with these kind of skills to draw on.
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