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Facebook and Microsoft warn EU: 'Not enough being done to teach coding'


Leading figures from some of the world’s largest tech companies have written to education ministers across the EU warning that more needs to be done to teach students to learn how to code.

In an open letter, the European heads of Microsoft, Facebook and Rovio, the Finnish company responsible for the hugely popular Angry Birds, have criticised the fact that the teaching of computer programming “remains too limited” across the continent.

The signatories praised the path taken by England in establishing a computing curriculum that went further than teaching kids how to use a computer, but they voiced concern that a recent poll showed teachers felt unprepared to deliver the new syllabus.

In July TES and charity Nesta published a survey that revealed 60 per cent of teachers did not feel confident about delivering the new computing curriculum.

Today's letter, which is released during EU Code Week, comes just a day after research showed that England’s new computing curriculum will not prepare young people for work in the digital industry.

Signed by Stephen Collins, Microsoft’s vice president of corporate affairs, Erika Mann, managing director of Facebook in Brussels, and Peter Vesterbacka, the “Mighty Eagle” at Rovio, the letter demands more action from Europe’s politicians, adding that by 2020 there will be 900,000 unfilled jobs in the ICT sector.

“As stewards of Europe’s future generations, you will be all too aware that as early as the age of 7, children reach a critical juncture, when they are learning the core life skills of reading, writing and basic maths,” the letter says. “However, to flourish in tomorrow’s digital economy and society, they should also be learning to code. And many, sadly, are not.”

But the group adds that learning to code is not just for a future career in the ICT sector, or reserved for “geeks”, but will be a necessary skill for many future professions.

“All too often,” the letter adds, “ICT and computer science skills are seen as niche, with little relevance to other fundamental academic pursuits.”

Yesterday, TES reported new research by the London School of Economics that suggested teachers, parents and employers in England should not assume the computing curriculum will act as a “panacea” for the growing skills gap between education and the world of work.

The study warned that “school alone” will not prepare young people for the world of work, while adding that there was no proven link between coding and employability.

Related links: 

Computing curriculum will not meet needs of industry, research warns - October 2014

Teachers unready for computing ambitions - July 2014

Jimmy Wales fears nine years of computing will be too much for pupils - September 2014

Fears mount over readiness to teach new computing curriculum - November 2013

How to master the new primary computing curriculum - October 2014  

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