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Should we all learn to code?

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The late great Steve Jobs once said that we should all learn to code. He even went as far as saying computer programming should be a part of our educational curriculum. I will present a counter-argument, “Everyone gets sick, so we should teach basic medicine at primary level.” We can see how this quickly becomes problematic.

Given that our educational curriculum is already bloated and teaches a lot of questionable material that some leaners will never use in their entire lives, is adding more complex skills like programming rational?

We will just come out and say it, if President Emmerson D. Mnangagwa needs to understand how to create simple computer algorithms to be able to execute his duties as the leader of our nation, then as a collective human society we have failed. And with that we can end the article here, but you are not yet convinced? Well, let us dive deeper then.

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First and foremost, I blame Hollywood for the image of what people think coding is. Just like they have planted images in your head that you can wield two guns simultaneously and use them with accuracy, they have made you believe coding is you chipping away at your keyboard at 100 words per second while staring at six computer screens. As a professional software developer, I will sadly tell you that my job is meticulously planning out how to write a few lines of computer code, writing said code in a few minutes and then spending hours and hours trying to find a way that the code can cause problems once people start using it. I love what I do, but I would not wish it on anyone. It is not easy and sometimes a bore.

As a computer programmer, I have been approached several times by peers looking to invest in a startup asking to be taught how to code as well as veteran managers asking for the same. For a startup with little funds, this makes sense. You learn the skills you need to create the awesome vision you have.

Herein lies the another problem, people think that it is easy. If a college dropout like Mark Zuckerberg can camp in his dorm room and create Facebook, then so can I. We totally ignore the fact that Zucks was not at a local community college, he was at Harvard. To acquire the skills you need to create something like Facebook, it would take you several months. You need to put in the ten thousand hours just like someone learning electrical engineering or plumbing would.

Couple this with the barrage of online adverts promising to teach you Python in 21 days and we have the masses thinking in 21 days they can create a PayPal rival. No one can teach you to write computer code for a competent platform that you can make money from in just 21 days, just like no one can impart on you the brick-laying skills needed to build a 3 bed-roomed house in just 21 days. This leads us to the next challenge.

The manager of Econet, or Old Mutual or whatever other business does not need to be a software engineer to realize that a problem the company is facing can be solved by some computer code. You can apply this same concept to the father of a household. There is no way you can learn plumbing, electrical engineering and bricklaying all in one. You do not need to have plumbing skills to realize that your drainage is blocked and a plumber with special equipment is needed to solve the problem. There is also the cost of plumbing material, which you may never recoup.

As a manager, your time (and the company’s dime) would be better spent in you advancing your knowledge as a business manager to be better able to supervise your subordinates. For a startup with limited funds, it is more advisable to find a technical partner who can become your co-founder and churn out the much-needed computer code.

The last point to look at takes us back to our example of basic medicine. Everyone gets sick, so logically we should be teaching everyone how to prescribe simple antibiotics and painkillers. This is however not the case because it is a known fact that nothing about medicine is simple. Computer programming is a technical field and should be treated in a similar manner. Adding coding classes to our junior-level curriculum, even for a child who will end up becoming the president of the country, or a plumber is not worth teaching them a complex skill that they may never use.

Well, we know you have your own $0.02 and we will meet you in the comments, fire away!

Author bio

About author

Van Lee Chigwada is a software developer at Age-X. You can find him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/agexdev


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4 thoughts on “Should we all learn to code?

  1. Well said you have actually solved a big problem l was having because l was thinking of doing one these short online courses wow thanks for the eye opener back to proper schooling…. I will register for the chartered institute of transport and logistics

  2. In my opinion, kids should be taught problem-solving skills, critical thinking and innovation. At the end of the day, success as an entrepreneur depends on these.

  3. “Everyone gets sick, so we should teach basic medicine at primary level”, should not be problematic.

    I would say everyone gets sick, so we should teach kids basic first aid skills for immediate application to preserve life before the doctors and specialists arrive.

    Programming is a skill. Skills come at different levels. To build Facebook, your example, you need a superior skill probably in the top 1% and certainly to do it as a team. I would say its essential to have some basic programming skills if we agree we are in a tech defined world in most sectors. Better/effective managers will be those who have an idea of what’s happening under the hood of an app or some other application or tech solution. Before I gained this skill myself, I thought programmers (at least the ones I hired) knew what they were doing on my projects. I realised some of their solutions were a waste of time and other resources from a business perspective. I became an effective project manager and entrepreneur, in my opinion, when I learned how to code. So yes kids who want to become entrepreneurs and future effective managers must learn some level of programming.

  4. Not learning to #code will see us stuck in the status quo; The status quo world is fast disappearing

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