Is coding the new Shakespeare?

How important is coding for the future digital entrepreneur? Coding is the language of commerce and innovation. Learning how to code is as important as learning a new language or how to speak.  With technology constantly evolving having coding skills is not just about becoming a programmer but also to acquire the skills to understand the building blocks to making big strategy decisions that will have an impact on businesses.

In 2014 the United Kingdom made a change to the national curriculum making coding mandatory across all state primary and secondary schools. With an anticipated shortage of around 1 million IT professionals in Europe by 2020 it is important to learn coding at school. Without these basic coding skills, the next generation will face an uphill battle in becoming business leaders in the future.

Learning coding skills was the focus of our first panel discussion at the recent Rakuten Future Forum event held earlier in the week in London, where experts discussed “Is Coding the new Shakespeare?” as one of the event topics. And though they all agreed on the importance of the skill and the need for children to “pick up the new language of technology,” they were also in agreement that coding is only a small part of the technology solution, and that learning it should not be at the expense of “softer” skills.

Indeed, it was emphasised that what needs to be pushed in schools are  curiosity and collaborative problem solving – a general interest in understanding the world around we live in and adaptability when faced with challenges. On the one hand coding trains people to think in a certain fashion, and while it can teach you useful cognitive skills like breaking down problems, later on you can become a creative problem solver as well.

The problem in the eyes of the panellists is that coding is not a goal, but rather a tool for solving problems; one of many tools that people need to use. They pointed to the fact that they had all focused on hiring technologists when first starting their business, since it seemed to be the sensible thing to do, yet now found themselves bringing on board musicians, linguists and other non-tech people. The challenge they all face is how to join content creators with tech people  and although it might be frustrating at first, leadership, communication and adaptability skills allow for an appreciation of the applications of technologies.

In short, despite the increased emphasis on programming skills there is a great need across all sectors to align objectives in teaching the skills in the classroom and funding needed to address the future skill shortage. It is an industry wide problem and a global challenge. We need to collaborate across all borders to solve this problem and to deal with it. We need more than just coding.

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