back to article Object to #YearOfCode? You're a misogynist and a snob, says the BBC

Critics of the Government's "Year of Code" scheme are misogynists or snobs, according to the BBC's tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. Rory's frustration is that while billions of pounds are splurged on IT, children are passively taught PowerPoint procedures. That's the limit of the state's ambitions for children. This a …

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  1. Dave Robinson

    More challenging than it looks

    Anyone who things that Word 2010 isn't challenging should clearly be using WordPad. Even something "simple" like finding where Microsoft have hidden the Document Properties is a challenge :-)

    1. h4rm0ny
      Boffin

      Re: More challenging than it looks

      File -> Info.

      Or here's the e-how page on finding the same information in Office 2007:

      http://www.ehow.com/how_6180238_document-properties-files-word-2007.html

      1. Dave Robinson

        Re: More challenging than it looks

        The fact that you need an e-how page, and that it's different in 2007 and 2010, illustrates my point perfectly, I think.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: More challenging than it looks

          >>"The fact that you need an e-how page, and that it's different in 2007 and 2010, illustrates my point perfectly, I think."

          How do you think it supports your point? Office 2007 takes a whole e-how page. Modern Office is just an entirely intuitive File -> Info. Point being it no longer requires the How To. How much simpler do you need it to be?

          1. Dave Robinson

            Re: More challenging than it looks

            To get to the properties panel or the advanced properties you have to click on the tiny little arrow next to the word "Properties". Yes, the one that looks like a heading but is in fact a drop-down menu. Whereas the one that looks like it should do the job (the hyperlink-esque "Show All properties") is in fact useless.

            The only thing that surpasses it for dogs-dinnerness is Windows 8.

            1. NumptyScrub

              Re: More challenging than it looks

              quote: "The only thing that surpasses it for dogs-dinnerness is Windows 8."

              Strange, it took me a week at most to adapt to Office 2010 from Office 2003, and to Win8 from Win7. I've also managed to get a good feel for MATE and Cinnamon, although I've yet to touch Unity (or XFCE for that matter). Maybe it helps having gone through most of the GUIs since GEM on the ST, and Windows specifically from 3.11 onwards through to 8.1 today. Maybe it also helps that I rarely touch TIFKAM and just stay on the desktop for everything.

              I still fucking struggle with regular expressions though. Could've done with being introduced to those at school, as hopefully the concepts would have sunk in easier ^^;

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: More challenging than it looks

                Regular Expressions are the product of Witchcraft and all who use them should be burnt at the stake.

                1. Havin_it
                  Paris Hilton

                  Re: More challenging than it looks

                  I consider regular expressions quite possibly the most useful "language" (feel free to argue that one) that I've learned in my time. It's also not a super-high bar to entry (though I guess you guys above might disagree) and I'd probably place it among the disciplines I'd try pushing at young students. Even after grasping the very basic structures, you feel you have a lot of power at your fingertips, and that gives you the impetus to keep going for the more advanced bits.

                  The only fly in the ointment is the range of conflicting dialects, so before we start teaching I recommend a pogrom of all competing dialects leaving only the Daddy, PCRE, standing.

                  Darn tricky zipper on this asbestos suit ... ;)

                  [Icon matches: Pari,Paris]

  2. Paul Leigh
    Childcatcher

    Interest

    Instead of forcing coding (whatever that turns out to mean) upon our young. Give them an hour or more a week to go out and find what interests them and let them explore it. Some will find coding/computing and that's great, some might be interested in the mechanics of a lawnmower but if that's what interests them, that's also great. Give them the option to make up their own minds and guide them if they need help.

    Sure, they need the mandated skills, Reading, Maths, etc. but coding or computer based work of any kind takes an active interest to be able to follow it to any meaningfully competent level.

    I learnt to write BASIC on a Vic20, not because my school forced it on me but because I found out about it and was curious. I'm still eager to learn and my career is based around that continued curiosity.

    How about the #YearOfChoice ?

    1. JonP

      Re: Interest

      I learnt to write BASIC on a Vic20, not because my school forced it on me but because I found out about it and was curious.

      Isn't that (hardware differences aside) pretty much how everyone learnt about programming? Certainly pretty much everyone I know who's into programming.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Interest

        Self taught here...

        Bring back CESIL! That is what the kids should be using! Well, I had to suffer it, so why shouldn't they! :-D

      2. Mike Pellatt

        Re: Interest

        nah, I learnt Algol 68 on an ICL1902 (I think it was) at Kingston Poly in the summer of '72, between Lower VI and Middle VI.

        Mind you, our Head of Maths had been offered a redundant IBM M/F but we didn't have the space. Or big enough incoming mains. That would have been fun.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Interest

        I remember typing out eight pages of code on to my vic 20, from a magazine that promised the results would be spectacular. After 10 days of trying to fix syntax errors and find a single typo or wrong bracket...gave up and never felt the need to attempt coding ever again!

        It appears that everyone involved in this Coding for kids, actually has no idea what coding is. It seems even the teachers who are supposed to teach it can't actually program any code. Someone, somewhere is getting rich from this and the kids will be not much better off than before.

        Show kids how they can hack other computers with a bit of code, gcc and chmod and they will learn to code off their own backs.

      4. GeekiestWoman

        Re: Interest

        I learned to program when Big Blue hired me in 1960 and assigned a programming mentor to me. I was twelve at the time. I don't consider 'basic' to be a programming language, never did.

      5. Tom 13

        Re: how everyone learnt about programming?

        Not necessarily. I got frustrated trying to learn on the Oddessey my Dad bought and gave up.

        The following year the high school got some TRS-80s and the teachers were learning how to program them. I'd taken an elective class in Probability and Statistics (go figure for someone who hates math). The teacher gave us what he initially thought was an moderately difficult problem. Later he realized it was exceedingly complicated and would require a computer to solve. So he setup an iteration to produce the computation. The next day the computer still wasn't finished and he turned it off and explained it to us. Then he had us do an experiment to calculate expected parameters. I asked him about getting a broader experimental base using the computer and he set me to work on it. That was how I learned programming.

        The next year we had a formal class on it which I took. I actually knew 90% of what they taught because of my previous work with the prob stat teacher, but most of those kids didn't.

        I haven't gone into programming professionally. I do user support. Some of those students who learned programming in the class did go into it professionally.

    2. DanDanDan

      Re: Interest

      A whole HOUR?!!? Omg, what if paedo's get them. We can't allow them any free time to investigate things for themselves and find themselves and get to know about their own interests!! They should either be at school, (so their parents can work longer hours) or asleep!!

      THINK OF THE CHILDREN FOR CHRIS' SAKE!!!

    3. Steve Button

      Re: Interest

      Paul,

      I also learned to program on a VIC-20 in BASIC (at age 11) and it's served me well ever since. (not BASIC, but the skills and interest I picked up).

      Problem is with Twitter, Facebook, Minecraft, youtube, Snapchat, and hundreds of TV channels to distract (not to mention xbox) our kids don't really get the benefit of being BORED. For me it was boredom that led to my inquisitiveness, but I'm not sure that if I was born 30 years later I might be the same as kids growing up today.

      Too much shiny shiny.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Twitter, Facebook, Minecraft, youtube, Snapchat, and hundreds of TV channels

        One of those is not like the others.

        One of those is not passive. One of those promotes thinking and does not destroy neurons.

        That one is Minecraft. Minecraft requires patience, planning, observation and perseverance, not to mention some amount of battle tactics. It can even scare you now and then.

        Minecraft is a plus in a sea of negatives.

        1. rh587 Silver badge

          Re: Twitter, Facebook, Minecraft, youtube, Snapchat, and hundreds of TV channels

          In it's defence, YouTube has empowered to some extent a new generation of film makers, doing things with on a shoestring budget that wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago.

          Of course, it has degenerated. For narrative storytelling or anything "arty", the likes of Vimeo have carved a niche away from cat videos and children biting their brother's finger, but YouTube still has gems and certainly the wider userbase.

          If you live in one of their favoured cities (such as London), YouTube have even opened small studios where indie fim makers can access equipment and expertise for their projects, and are now providing an in-browser video editor and a library of rights-free music so you can get started without having to shell out a lot for software or getting nobbled for inadvertantly using someone's music. That leads to

          Like Minecraft it has an active element, one that could lead to a career in film making, photography or associated creative arts.

          That was an expensive hobby to get into in the days of film or tape and dedicated hardware. Now you drop files onto your laptop and edit, colour grade, etc, etc.

          It might even lead to an interest in coding if you end up writing python scripts to generate behaviours in the likes of Blender.

        2. philbigdog
          Thumb Up

          Re: Twitter, Facebook, Minecraft, youtube, Snapchat, and hundreds of TV channels

          Totally agree about Minecraft, apart from PVP worlds, obviously. My 6-year-old wrote a Lua script in the ComputerCraft mod for Minecraft - not a bad opening gambit! His older brother is doing Scratch at school and PowerPoint presentations seem to have been dropped (finally), so things are heading in the right direction. Regarding the computing fundamentals from his maths lessons I'm less hopeful about those - I'll have to try and pick up that slack.

      2. DaddyHoggy

        Re: Interest

        For me I was lucky enough to get a C64 in 1983 aged 12. I started with Commodore Basic (ah PEEKing and POKEing) then Simons' Basic, then assembler. Then in '89 I got an Amiga and started again (multi threading!). At Uni I did C, Smalltalk (Object Oriented, classes, inheritance) and (shudder) Ada.

        I discovered I not a natural programmer, but will plug away if I'm interested in the end results. This stood me in good stead with the MOD when they gave me 100,000+ lines of FORTRAN 77 code to debug in my first year there... Now I have a curious 12yo daughter an RPi + Scratch + Python + PiCraft and as long as she can see the end result she's loving it.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interest

      Paul Leigh, your suggestion that young people be given a free choice of what they study is far too sensible for politicians to consider.

      It does remind me, though, of something I once read in one of Freeman Dyson's books. He said that, as a boy, he studied mathematics as a form of rebellion. When his parents, concerned at his studious habits, took him for a summer holiday on a farm, he quickly discovered a suitable hayloft and spent his days as happy as a clam reading about advanced calculus while the parents imagined he was off "enjoying the fresh air".

      Dyson then expressed alarm that the government of the time was trying to launch a drive to encourage more children to take up mathematics. As his main reason for devoting himself to it was to rebel against adult expectations, he feared that government support would prevent any of the right type of student from ever taking an interest in math.

    5. Joe Montana

      Re: Interest

      Kids will learn better when they are motivated, and are learning about something they are genuinely interested in...

      That said, learning the basics of coding is really just an extension of maths and language.. And while the majority of people will never use these skills once they leave school, the same is true of many other subjects.

      On the other hand IT related teaching is badly in need of reform... Teaching kids how to use specific versions of mundane applications is extremely counter productive. By the time they leave school the software they have learnt will no longer be in use having been replaced by newer versions or even by something else entirely (when i was in school we were taught wordperfect for dos).

      What's needed is to teach general concepts in a multitude of different applications, so that people can easily adapt to different applications.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interest

      The point is that kids don't know what interests them always. I didn't know I would love computers so much until I owned one. I was perfectly happy with my BMX.

      By forcing children to do coding, learn maths, history, geography and sports it means you give them all an idea about many things and those that really love the subject will develop their skills accordingly.

    7. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Interest

      Your suggestion would result in a rise in critical thinking. for some reason Mr gove and his minions are dead set against such a thing

    8. Tom 13

      Re: Interest

      I wouldn't force them to spend an hour a week for each year of school on coding. But I think it would be worth spending an hour a week on a few key conceptual areas once students have the prerequisites for the material.

      * How an early processor handled its computations.

      * Simple cash register program. Total less than ten items, make change from cash tendered. Do both intereactive and data sets.

      * Address Book (for string handling purposes)

      * Blackjack game

      * Same day birthday bet simulation (How many people do you need before there's more than a 50% chance two of them were born on the same day of the year)

      Similar work should been done for other non-standard but technical areas of study.

      The offer additional optional classes.

    9. DaneB

      Re: Interest

      Ha ha, year of choice… brilliant idea… tell that one to Gove… it wouldn't compute.

  3. Lis 0r
    Trollface

    Keep the kids dumb!

    Means job security and more pay for the rest of us.

    Though more seriously, this seems like a "patriotic" way of trying to bring down programmer wages to equal those of our far eastern brethren, for the benefit of no one but the corporate behemoths.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Felix Krull
      Headmaster

      Re: Keep the kids dumb!

      Keeping children dumb is a important function of modern schooling. Society needs only a few percent smart people, the rest are better off not being given a proper education, because that will only lead to a sense of failure when they find themselves being unemployed or sitting at a supermarket checkout counter.

      All most children need, is to be able to sign their own name, read street signs and a vocabulary that lets them understand television commercials.

  4. Alan Bourke

    It's all silly.

    Not every kid should be a coder any more than they should be a car mechanic. The people with a natural affinity should be identified early and encouraged in that direction. For everyone else, a good grounding in using computers, staying secure online and basic troubleshooting is all they need. The whole idea of everyone being able to code is daft. It's complicated, not everyone can do it. Like fixing a car engine.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: It's all silly.

      >>"The people with a natural affinity should be identified early and encouraged in that direction"

      Disagree. I think over-specialization from an early age is very damaging. I had almost no interest in computers when I was a child. I was mainly interested in English Literature and History and Physics. I got into programming much later on at University and became a C/C++ programmer (though I'm rusty as Hell with the language these days, the foundation it gave me still makes me a better coder in other languages than most other people I know using them). I never found pursuing different directions at school a hindrance to later learning and believe they've actively assisted my later career.

      If all school education becomes vocational (which has been the major shift in direction over the last ten years), then we lose much of our ability to progress and cross disciplines and adapt to changes in the marketplace.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: I think over-specialization from an early age is very damaging

        I agree globally with that sentence, but encouraging a natural affinity does not necessarily have to end in specialisation.

        It can very well take the simple form of a voluntary hour spent learning to code via interesting activities, such as in a club house of sorts. Meanwhile, during the day, the child remains in the general courses of maths, language, history and geography and science. Just throw in an available hour on coding with someone who can answer questions, and let the interest bloom.

  5. h4rm0ny

    both down at the lowest levels (coding device drivers), at higher levels (reviewing JQuery code) and many stops in between (Python and even PHP), as well as been a project manager, I feel I at least have some credentials to comment on all this, whereas most of the people involved in pushing this appear to have little to none. Especially the person yesterday who might be a great manager and co-ordinator for all I know, but claims "coding" can be taught in an hour and yet has apparently never taken an hour to actually learn it.

    And having contrasted my experience and knowledge of the industry with theirs, I would like to say categorically that what they're pushing is a bad idea.

    By all means expose children to programming. Let them see what is involved in it and give them a foretaste so that they can make an informed choice about entering that profession and studying it at a higher level. Just as they should have a foretaste of a wide range of other careers. But don't waste huge amounts of time and resource teaching it as a full subject. All of this will be taught far more effectively and properly at University level. It's dishonest to even suggest that a GCSE in "coding" or whatever they choose to dress it up as, will have much real world value.

    Nor am I much fond of existing ICT which focuses on using specific software packages and might as well be called a GCSE in "rapidly out of date skills".

    What does have a lasting value, and which we are weak in, imo, is core subjects such as maths, language, history. These things are the foundational skills and subjects needed to then learn further skills. What good is knowing what functions are where in Excel or Calc if you lack the mathematical understanding to make use of that? And if you do have the understanding, then finding how to do what you want in those packages is just a few clicks away. I was asked to work something out for a friend. I needed to use Binomial Distribution. So I typed in "Excel Binomial Distribution" and up came the function I needed. Typed it in and had the answers my friend needed in a few moments. The reason I could do that was because I had been taught maths, not because I had been taught "spreadsheets".

    And if that is the case with something like spreadsheets, how much more the case with something difficult like programming?

    It is not snobbish to say that computer programming is a University level subject. I will very happily take the time to teach and encourage any child who wants to learn about programming. And there are plenty of kids who are smart enough to learn it. But that doesn't mean it is wise to try and make it a basic subject, because it isn't. All that will happen is the inevitable clash between schools and ministers and parents wanting children to do well at exams on one side, and programming being an actual difficult and very large subject on the other, will be resolved by quietly degrading the subject to a parody of actual programming (sorry "coding") which is near-useless as a professional skill, completely useless as preparation for University level study of the subject (they will spend the first half-year un-teaching what was badly taught before) and most crucially, takes away enormously from time to teach foundational subjects such as maths.

    And no, I'm not a misogynist, either. There were a few misogynistic comments here yesterday based on the looks of the spokesperson interviewed. But nearly all of the comments I read against it had a solid, reasoned basis. Which is that all this is a terrible idea. There is a very small amount of very low-hanging fruit that GCSE-level "coders" could take in the business world. Minor edits of template websites, etc. That fruit has long since been gobbled up by automated tools and India which we cannot compete with in terms of cost.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Missing title.

      Huh. El. Reg ate my title whilst my comment was sitting waiting for moderator approval. (What triggers that, anyway? Comment length? My other comment on another story appeared right away and I wrote it after this one). Anyway the reason for the somewhat elided start to my post was because the title said I started working in the field of programming around fifteen years ago. At which point the current people pushing this program would probably be at school. Oh dear - am I that old? :(

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Missing title.

        "Huh. El. Reg ate my title whilst my comment was sitting waiting for moderator approval. (What triggers that, anyway? Comment length? My other comment on another story appeared right away and I wrote it after this one)."

        Certain artcles (like this one) are flagged so that all comments require moderation.

        I think in other cases, certain keywords may trigger moderation, also (maybe?) weighted against posters general posting history and reputation, but I'm not sure on this.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Can't agree more, especially where I am located and the frequent curses I hear about the UK first year undergraduates being so utterly useless compared to the foreign intake students. So they have to teach down to the lowest common denominator and teach the basics, boring the hell out of the more competent students and because the basics have to be taught so quickly, quite a few drop out as well.

      Meanwhile schools carefully teach our children how to pass exams and look like a worthwhile statistic, teach them, parrot fashion, how to use a particular company's products and yet they entirely fail on the basics, including the combined sense of exploration and learning that teaching is all about. Now we have huge numbers of mathematically and language illiterate kids coming through school and this has always been inevitable as while the cuts and policy changes are short term, their impact is long term. It's not just that these kids have suffered with poor basics (maths and language) but they have repeatedly had all drive and exploration and creativity beaten out of them as none of that helps to pass exams. These, of course, are the same exams that our "smarter" children are getting better at every year, despite the fact that, for example, the current A level maths curriculum rather suspicously closely matches the old GCSE/O-Level curriculum of a decade ago.

      Some of the most important things I learnt when I was taught Computer Science (not word processing or powerpoint bothering) was an appreciation of the history of computing, how we go to where are (or more accurately, were then) and the basic sociopolitical issues around computing in general. This provided the building blocks for the basic of how computers operate (Input > Process > Output), boolean algebra and logic, how computers interacted with humans (both input and output interfaces), how information is stored and transmitted and that was before we looked at a single line of code. Let alone code that isn't code... e.g. website markup or style-sheets.

    3. pacman7de

      Programming is a University level subject?

      @h4rm0ny: "It is not snobbish to say that computer programming is a University level subject"

      I disagree, I can remember kids gathered round an Apple II with a book of BASIC games and religiously typing them in. Getting the computer to do anything gave them a great sense of achievement. Have you ever seen kids out of school-time actually volunteering to do their homework?

      "takes away enormously from time to teach foundational subjects such as maths"

      Trying to figure-out an algorithm is a form of maths.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Programming is a University level subject?

        >>"I disagree, I can remember kids gathered round an Apple II with a book of BASIC games and religiously typing them in"

        Firstly, I didn't say no-body pre-University age is unable to study University level material. There are plenty who can and some who do. But it remains a subject best taught at University because at the school level there is so much foundational work that needs doing. Secondly, religiously copying a game program in BASIC is fine and good. But there is way, way more to programming as I'm sure you know. The problem is that at school level, all you will get is that copying of a game. (Actually worse, it sounds like all you get is some basic HTML mark-up and parrot-taught JavaScript tricks). That is useless for working as a programmer and of less benefit to someone starting a degree in Computer Science than good language and maths skills - both of which are rather poor in this country for school leavers.

        If you require re-wording, then let me say this: "it is not snobbish to think that teaching programming in a useful or even slightly complete way is a university level activity".

        >>"Trying to figure-out an algorithm is a form of maths."

        Well, Computational Complexity is - working out that Quicksort has a worst case performance of O(n2). And Formal Specification of algorithms to prove correctness is a form of mathematics. But just trying to figure out an algorithm can as often just be puzzle solving. No more maths than catching a ball demonstrates you understand trigonometry and acceleration. You might be able to catch a ball but you can't build a catapult and tell me where the shot will land depending on the weight of the stone.

        Besides the above is a strange counter-argument to something I didn't say. I never said that algorithm creation wasn't (or more precisely couldn't be) maths. But that it took away from teaching foundational subjects such as maths. The difference ought to be clear. If I teach someone logarithms, they can apply that foundational knowledge of maths to working out the Complexity of an algorithm and other things. If I dump a formula on them and say "use this" they wont fully understand it, will misuse it, and will only be able to repeat what I've done, in practice, not apply it creatively. Even though that formula I gave them for working out the complexity of an algorithm is "maths".

      2. theModge

        Re: Programming is a University level subject?

        "“Trying to figure-out an algorithm is a form of maths."

        Of course. However I'd argue it was much easier to go from knowing Logic and Set Theory to algorithm design than it would be the other way round. Logic is a useful way to analyse anything, and I’d agree taking it further into the realm of computing is necessary to be any good as a developer. A "knows some html" type developer, such as schools are likely to produce may well not even be able to do that however, thus leaving them knowing a little syntax from a language which, by the time they get their first job will inevitably have moved on.

        Furthermore depending on what you’re doing (I’d confess it didn’t come up much in my time creating database front ends, but it regularly crops up in pretty much everything else I’ve ever worked on) some knowledge of maths will make you a better programmer –I find my self using matrixes all the time – so much the better if you know what you’re actually doing when you convolve 2 matrixes.

    4. Vincent Ballard

      > It is not snobbish to say that computer programming is a University level subject.

      You could say the same about maths.

      1. h4rm0ny

        >>"You could say the same about maths."

        No I couldn't because I don't think for maths it is the case. Okay, you can explore maths more thoroughly at University level than at school level. But the difference is that maths breaks down into useful stuff even at school level. If a pupil learns trigonometry, that's still all valid and good as a basis for other things. If a child learns the a dribble of HTML, they're just going to produce crap websites with it.

  6. Carpetsmoker

    Practical problem solving

    My first programming experience was on the MSX, I had this list of games, and I wanted to sort it by name. It quite probably was the ugliest, slowest, most unsightly sorting algorithm that has ever been written. Ever. It did work though.

    I've learned the most by solving actual practical problems, such as my sorting program. Give kids a practical problem, and let them solve it. Along the way, they should learn how to program.

    Actually, I find that this works a lot of stuff, not just programming. Of course theory is important too, I can now write a *proper* sorting program, but practical problem solving not only keeps you motivated, but you'll also grasp the immediate benefits of what you're learning (which is not always immediately obvious, especially for newcomers and/or kids). I certainly find it the best way to start things off with.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The luvvies at the BBC know about as much about coding

    as the person running the Year of Code.

    Unfortunately.

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    Is this the same Rory Cellan-Jones

    who banged out a bit of HTML and announced to the world he'd learned to "code" ?

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Is this the same Rory Cellan-Jones

      Yup. It was fun to read his article before reading this on the reg. I have seen a lot of examples of what he doesnt know, but I really wonder what he does know or how he conned the bbc to let him write for them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is this the same Rory Cellan-Jones

        To be fair to him, he is the technology correspondent, not the computer science correspondent.

        I would say though that the only thing that you can be certain is on a machine is a web browser, so why not start coding there. Coding a markup language is still coding and it is immediately rewarding. Coding in a language which requires download and install and may or may not be available for free (if at all) on your chosen platform is great, but it's entirely possible that the person who would have tried it on a whim got bored hacking through the internet trying to work out what they need.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is this the same Rory Cellan-Jones

          Joe average will take "coding" as synonymous with "programming". On that basis, your assertion that "Coding a markup language is still coding" is incorrect.

          I will cite https://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/prog.html, where it is clearly explained, including the definition of "coding" under which your assertion would valid - but. as I say, that's not, to my mind, what people generally mean when they apply the word "coding" to computers.

        2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

          Re: Is this the same Rory Cellan-Jones

          I would say though that the only thing that you can be certain is on a machine is a web browser, so why not start coding there.

          What complete bollocks. Marking up a web page using HTML is exactly the equivalent of emboldening or italicising text in a Word or Libre Office Writer document. It is doing exactly what it says on the HTML tin: marking up text. This is not coding because it does not involve writing executable logic.

          Coding involves designing and writing executable expressions using a language designed for the purpose such as C, Java, Python, Perl, assembler or even hex machine code. The result is to produce something that accepts input data, applies the logic you've written to it and outputs results derived from the input.

          Anybody who can't see the difference between coding and marking up a bit of text should not be given any job more demanding than school dinner lady.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is this the same Rory Cellan-Jones

            @ Martin Gregorie

            What complete bollocks. Marking up a web page using HTML is exactly the equivalent of emboldening or italicising text in a Word or Libre Office Writer document. It is doing exactly what it says on the HTML tin: marking up text. This is not coding because it does not involve writing executable logic.

            And yet it has it's place. I'm working on a project with my girlfriend at the moment - she's a web designer, spends most of her time in html and css, but a fair amount of javascript (which does involve executable logic).

            I'm figuring out the maths, developing the database and (in this case) writing the PHP.

            Javascript needs context, and that context is HTML. HTML is a good lead in - instant results with no need for an interpreter or development environment however modest (well, the browser, and everyone has one of those anyway).

            I can develop the most advanced, efficient beautiful system ever created, but if users can't figure it out because the UX is god awful (or there's no interface at all) then it's pointless!

            Of course web development is only one aspect of software development, but a bit of JS can happily lead into Perl or .NET web development which leads to compiled application development.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge

    My snobbish misogynist viewpoint.

    If it were any other profession, we'd have 'science body takes issue with government iniciative' or 'engineering society objects to new government curriculum'. But no, we're 'coders' and, just like our opinion doesn't matter in business ('okay, point noted, now go back and hit the keys'), it doesn't matter in education either.

    As has been mentioned so often by commentards here, coding in itself isn't an end, what is an end using computing to teach logic and critical thinking in an interesting or, dare I even say it, fun way. Some of these children will then later go on to code, which is 100 times easier to teach once they've got the basics sorted out. As is every other subject.

  10. Steve Graham

    The bare facts in the article yesterday made it pretty clear that the whole thing is a scam that shifts taxpayers' money into the wallets of a clique of people who are largely technology-ignorant, but savvy in the ways of government and civil service.

  11. Pete 2

    You missed one

    From RCJ's article

    > There is a minority of older experienced programmers ...

    So not only is this guy accusing people of snobbishness and misogyny, but there's a whiff of ageism in there, too.

    However, since this guy works for the People''s Democratic Republic of the BBC, he knows that everything he writes will be scrutinised by the PC brigade - either within the organisation, or without - and duly held against him when his next contract renewal comes up. On on that basis you can't really blame him for being so right-on - his strings are being pulled in ways we could never imagine.

    However, back on topic. Teaching people coding is like trying to teach speaking. It denies the existence of all the different languages out there and assumes that so long as you can make some noises, the job's done. In practice, it's barely started.

  12. Emma Mulqueeny

    At the risk of adding yet more topics to be fixed, I would advocate Conrad Wolfram's Computer Based Math curriculum http://www.computerbasedmath.org/ simple, already extremely well researched and produced with real life teachers and successfully running in Estonia http://blog.wolfram.com/2013/02/11/announcement-our-first-cbm-country/.

  13. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    [B]asic maths and literacy...

    Education in a nutshell. Until you have achieved this level you should not be leaving primary school. To consider leaving secondary school at the age of sixteen being unable to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic is an insult both to the student and the society which will have to support him.

    In secondary education, the current fad for everyone sitting the same examination has dropped any meaning for the qualification to the lowest common denominator: compare and contrast a late sixties 'O' level (others are available but this was the first I found):

    http://www.burtongrammar.co.uk/category/life-and-times/school-exams/1968-maths-o

    with a current GCSE, designed for innumerates to pass:

    http://www.wjec.co.uk/uploads/papers/w13-4351-01.pdf

    Like it or not, programming requires literate and numerate practitioners. The questions I see posted on so many fora seem to indicate that this condition is not being met.

    1. Lyndon Hills 1

      Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

      Amazing. The recent paper reminds you to show all your working for what amounts to simple mental arithmatic.The title should be very basic maths.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

        Divide 66570 by 10 then multiply by 3. Give your answer to the nearest 1000.

        What is 540207 in words?

        Read the number off this scale

        Count these numbers

        Sort these numbers

        What is the area of these two rectangles?

        WTF? You shouldn't be allowed out of PRIMARY school without the ability to do this.

      2. Rob D.

        Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

        To be fair, the paper is GCSE Foundation grade so not really for the top end of a cohort, but in practice, the point is well-enough made with just the reference to the paper from 1968. My wife teaches A-level mathematics and they have to accelerate coverage of calculus because GCSE A* mathematics doesn't give enough to do A-level physics (and for reference, my wife's school is a State school which takes a normalised intake across ability, but 98%+ of all students in each year get equivalent of ten A*-C grades (sic) which shows i) that even low ability students can score highly [granted the lower ability range on 'equivalent' qualifications], and ii) a well-lead, effective school setting high expectations gives children the best start in life).

        But back to the topic at hand - like many others I chuckled through Miss Dexter's performance on Newsnight, and was stupefied by the sheer fecklessness of the proposed plan which assaults credibility on so many levels. Schools should be equipping children to function effectively in a world by supporting the effective learning of usable concepts and skills that can extend into their future. Spoon-feeding the proposed tripe about 'coding' will have the same effect on the nation's future technical effectiveness as eviscerating the curriculum in mathematics over a couple of decades has had on our standing in the eyes of the OECD.

        The concept isn't fundamentally wrong (do a better job of equipping children with core skills that should fit well with their likely future lives) but the execution for now is a train wreck in slow motion.

    2. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

      contrast a late sixties 'O' level (others are available but this was the first I found):

      http://www.burtongrammar.co.uk/category/life-and-times/school-exams/1968-maths-o

      with a current GCSE, designed for innumerates to pass:

      http://www.wjec.co.uk/uploads/papers/w13-4351-01.pdf

      That isn't a valid comparison. GCSEs are split in three different level papers which candidates are submitted for based on their estimated grade. This allows for more testing at or around the level of ability of each candidate. The foundation level paper you cite is for students expected to get no more than an E (A D is doable but needs a very high mark). The intermediate level above that is aimed at C/D students and the higher paper above that for B or above. Thus only the higher level paper is even intended to be a O level equivalent. The paper you cite isn't even CSE standard.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

        Agreed, and to some extent I was exaggerating to make a point. But even the higher level paper doesn't really reach either the extent or the breadth of the O-level.

        (Vaguely remembered statistic) O-levels were achieved by something like 10% of the cohort; my point that a single examination simply can't cover the range of student's abilities remains. And I'd still argue that the paper I cited - which is, after all, *labelled* as a GCSE - should be achievable at junior school, before secondary education and not after five years of it.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ask a thousand techies how to teach children about IT/Computer science and you'll get a thousand answers.

    Few of the answers will have any background knowledge in how to teach children, just expert knowledge actual or perceived in a few IT/CS disciplines.

  15. TonyWilk

    The basics

    The problem seems to be that the non-coders making the decisions want fast'n'fancy results, which will end up with some framework being used so Johnny can just type in "My Website" and choose a colour... Hey look - this 9yo just built a website! Film at 11 !

    What is really needed is to get across some of the real basics (no, not BASIC), for example - codepad.org have an interactive C editor/interpreter. At the same time, you do also need to give 'em some flashy stuff to keep them interested and to demonstrate the breadth of 'coding'.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    some of these are also things the UK isn't very good at - such as project management and customer support. (The latter we can't outsource fast enough, with dire results.)

    Hmmm..... I'm not sure if I should be jumping out of the way of the oncoming stampede of project managers objections, or if I should be objecting to being told we UK IT people don't know how to support customers...

    On topic, you need to start by engendering interest in the possibilities. The example you gave of a class doing a project about an entire gadget (concept, development, marketing, and after sale support) is a good one. It allows the kids to explore the various areas of technology and science, and to see which bits interest them most. They're not all going to end up coding the instructions, anymore than they'll all end up designing the chipset, or board layout. Some of them might have no interest in how it works at all, but have a flair for making it look/feel good, etc. Guiding them to discover if any of those disciplines are 'for them' would be a far more useful use of the time. Others will want to be drivers, and bricklayers, and nurses, and teachers, and (god forbid) journalists. Guiding them towards educational paths which interest them, has to be far better than assuming some lad who wants to be a builder, or some lass who wants to be a nurse, has any need to know how to write code.

  17. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Short shopping list

    Find kids who want to learn either how computers work or how to make a computer do something.

    Teach them to work out how this might be made to happen.

    Teach them the skills they need to make it happen.

    Encourage them to make it happen.

    Stand behind them ready to help when they ask, but not so close that they bump into you when they turn around.

    Guide and praise them as necessary.

    Ask them what they're going to to do next.

    And that's it.

    You've got the put the resources in place - they'll need a big sandbox to play in - but make that available to the right kids and they'll do most of the work for you. Try to drag anyone kicking and screaming or dumbing things down so that the whole class can do it even if they've no interest or aptitude won't help anyone.

    1. xerocred
      Headmaster

      Re: Short shopping list

      "Ask them what they're going to to do next."

      I wanna be a footballer.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Condemnation By Extrapolation

    Rory Cellan-Jones says:

    "A glance at the comments under a YouTube video of Lottie Dexter's Newsnight interview reveals a murky world of misogyny and coding snobbery"

    Well there's a surprise. That's just YouTube for you, what did you expect? Obviously we're not all like that.

    It's just stereotyping, lazy journalism.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Condemnation By Extrapolation

        I completely agree. These people aren't going to get kids into technology because they don't have any credibility.

        My point was that you can't label all techies as misogynists and snobs on the basis of a few YouTube comments. Nor can you entirely blame these factors for keeping people out.

        If you really want to get people into engineering then maybe raising the status of the engineering profession would be a good place to start. Perhaps some of our major corporations would find it easier to hire and retain good engineers if they didn't lay swathes of them off every time the share price drops a few points.

  19. Mattjimf

    As I mentioned in the comments of Yesterdays article, when I was in high school, I had computing from first year (Scottish system). With this article and a response saying the first time they saw computing was when they moved school to Scotland, I decided to have a look at the curriculum for computing studies at my old school and found the following:

    "S1-S3 Course

    All pupils in S1 attend core ICT for 1 x 50 minute period per week. Pupils will have the option to chooce Computing or Business Studies for S2 and S3 where they will receive 3 x 50 minute periods in their chosen subject, on top of their core ICT period.

    Pupils who chose Computing have the opportunity to develop their problem solving skills and experience a deeper understanding of how software, including games, are designed and created. Topics include computer systems, biometrics, legislation, games design and development in a variety of languages, App design for Android devices and Web Design." http://www.hazleheadacy.aberdeen.sch.uk/computer-studies.html

    Without looking at other Scottish school websites, I would guess that most schools will offer the same classes for the first three years. If the government really wants to fix the issues of computing in schools, might it not be an idea to look at what the other constitute countries of the UK are doing with regards to coding and computer studies classes, and stop saying computing teaching in the UK is broken, when it just seems to be in England (god I hate sounding like a nationalist complaining about being lumped in with England).

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Retweeted by Steve Bong"

    Kiss of death for a Shoreditch type or comedy reinforcement for a fellow bongster? I still can't work out which @monkchips is...

  21. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Why not code?

    Education as giving kids basic skills for business is a fucking awful, drab way to try to bring people up. In this it's also very hard for politicians. They're trying to get to grips with what needs to be taught, and fighting an educational establishment that often has different views entirely. Sometimes self-interested, sometimes genuinely held beliefs. And then both are fighting the teachers on the ground, who all have their own ideas of what to do, and different skills.

    Then we add in the voters' opinions. So you Andrew seem to suggest in your article that calculus is basic maths. I venture to disagree. Maths is compulsory up to GCSE. I've never had to use calculus. Or even half the algebra I was taught in maths. So some of the harder stuff can safely be left until A-Level.

    We're all forced to learn at least one foreign langauge, even though very few of us will become fluent at it, some will never use what they do pick up, and English is currently the global language of choice. However this exposure is a good thing, and useful for various reasons. Including the grammar that we don't seem to get in actual English lessons. I was forced to do latin, german and french - which have all been useful in their various ways.

    Surely education should be doing 2 things. Firslty there's basic life skills. So the 3Rs (that aren't). Literacy and numeracy are obviously vital things to have. I think we'd also benefit from some kind of home economics / cookery as well. And I personally think we ought to have some kind of civics / PSE / whatever it's called this week. But done properly - and actually taken seriously as a subject. I think we really ought to be learning something about politics, basic financial education (what's a mortgage / what's a pension), how society works - oh and media studies (i.e. how not to get misled by the Mail/Guardian/etc). Plus some PE / sport. Maybe some sort of woodwork/metalwork/plumbing?

    Next you've got 'tasters'. You don't learn how to do 'proper' history before A-Level. Even then you can probably pass the exams without doing history justice. But if you have a decent teacher, then the only difference between A-Level and degree level is how much research you do for each essay. And how many words it is... But you can still learn about the past, and how are you going to know you want to try it later on, if you don't have a go first.

    So that gives you your history, geography, economics, french, biology, chemistry etc. You do them to get a bit of a basis for how the world works, and just for the general value of being educated. But also to see what's available and what you're interested in, so you can then do further study. There is an argument for specialising less - even up to first year of degree, so you keep narrowing your academic choices - but not nearly so much as we do. Until you finally end up specialising as late as the last 2 or 3 years of a degree course. That's an argument I often read, and I'm not sure what I think about it.

    This is also where english and maths go. They start as core subjects, but then wander off into areas like literature/drama/criticism or calculus. Which are probably not for everyone, and become areas to specialise in at A-Level or university.

    So why not coding? How will you know if you like it, if you've never had a go at it. There's a good argument that computers are now so important that computing/technology ought to get added to the 'core skills' side of education. If not, it should at least be taught to everyone as a 'taster' subject - to attract people into later study. There needs to be some spreadsheets and word-processor stuff, and some how to use the internet. But a bit of how computers work would be nice, and surely that includes some basic idea of what coding is? I don't see why you're so dismissive of this. It's a subject (like languages and science) that education doesn't do well. Because there aren't enough teachers who know it. The BBC had a computer built back in the 80s in order to push the subject. Why not a year of coding now?

    While I'm typing out my education wall of text... It would also be far better not to teach everything in isolation. Surely learning about bakery for example is a good skill to have, and involves biology, chemistry and basic numeracy. Or learning about healthy diet / exercise, which is biology and PE - as well as going into economics understanding marketing and society, and how to avoid getting manipulated into eating shit ready meals when you can make something healthy, delicious and nutritious in under ten minutes - if you're pushed for time. We got a tiny bit of the sports science side of PE in sixth form, and it was far more useful and interesting than GCSE geography.

    Also we really need to drop this obsession with academic study. Yes, we should be sending peole to university to study english. So an A-Level is a good use of their time for 2 years first. The same is true for history, maths, the sciences etc. But we should also be teaching plumbing and electrics to 16 year-olds. That choice should be available too! Not everyone wants to study in an academic way. We need technical colleges again. I can imagine that computer courses of various types would be taught at those, as well as the more academic, theoretical stuff, that leads on to university courses.

  22. TheOtherHobbes

    >There's nothing liberal, or neoliberal, however, about diverting the state's cash to prop up your business empire

    Er - actually that's exactly what neoliberalism is.

    The fuckwits in banking, the riders of the revolving door between Westminster and the various consultancies and 'private sector buyouts' cannibalising the NHS and the pension system, and the various faux workfare corps living off state handouts while bullying the sick and dying - they'd all be be bankrupt if they weren't being showered with state cash for private profit.

    1. Ben Liddicott

      No, get a dictionary

      The "liberals" abandoned freedom in favour of progressivism enforced by the state - trading free-as-in-freedom for free-as-in-beer.

      The "neoliberals" are those who decided that actually freedom was not only more effective at achieving social goals, but just maybe, more important than those goals.

      Freedom is worth risking our lives for. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be robbed of it on the pretext that at least that way we won't starve.

      After all, if the people are prepared to fight and die for freedom, it is bizarre and wrong to take away their freedom in the name of preserving their lives.

  23. Electric Panda

    The whole thing is silliness

    I've never understood why there's this sudden fetish to turn EVERYONE into coders, or where it even came from? Not everyone wants to bang out code all day every day - I work in a technical IT for a FTSE100 and I honestly hate writing code.

    UK CompSci degrees have been pumping out armies of mediocre code monkeys for years and years now. I'd say 80-85% of ALL CS grads I know, regardless of their academic pedigree, now do software engineering or development of some kind - if often follows that those who don't, make a point of telling everyone they don't and in some cases even moan about it feeling like their job is somehow lacking as a result. Why do we suddenly need more and why are we starting them earlier?

    The market is already saturated and salaries are falling. Stop this silliness and start producing computer scientists and general computer enthusiasts rather than yet more sodding code monkeys.

    This whole thing is like teaching children how to fry, boil and poach eggs rather than how to cook more generally. They desperately need a broader and more versatile skillset.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: The whole thing is silliness

      I've never understood why there's this sudden fetish to turn EVERYONE into coders, or where it even came from?

      From a government perspective; 'coding' is the next great thing, the guaranteed saviour of Britain and her economy, so what we need to seize that opportunity is more coders.

      Simples.

      And all of us can see the gravy train which will ride on the back of that.

      Anyone remember those old photos with row after row of secretaries bashing away on typewriters? Replace those typists with 'coders' and you probably get a glimpse of what the government's vision is. An infinite number of coders with an infinite number of computers will write the one app which saves the nation. Honest.

      In a couple of years time the next fad will come along and the government of the day will be chasing that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The whole thing is silliness

      (Being an anonymous coward as I'm in the process of vetting candidates.)

      I'm a long-time software engineer (sorry, "coder") working on everything from embedded 8-bit to high-availability servers for nearly thirty years now as well as working as a BOFH on occasion. One of my tasks over the past few years has been wading through CVs from agencies and interviewing candidates for engineering R&D outfits of various sizes.

      An alarmingly high proportion of the spelling, grammar & fluency of CVs - and agents' covering blurb - is chuffing awful, giving me severe misgivings about the authors' ability to write English let alone code. When I do see a CV good enough for an interview, the candidates often don't understand the "nuts & bolts" of computer technology, basic digital & analogue electronics or the mathematics & physics that is essential for engineering. Often they don't have any breadth of knowledge in the IT field either, lacking curiosity about anything outside their comfort zone.

      What is especially alarming is that the few good candidates are getting older & older. The market for web designing software simians may well be saturated but the market for software engineers with an ounce of skill & creativity is woefully thin. This may be great for those of us who already have the requisite skills but it's a disaster for British engineering.

      Exposing children to a bit of programming is a good idea but much more important is giving them a basic understanding of English and other languages, history, social skills, maths & science and the mental tools & desire to go on to learn more. The ones that are "into" a subject, whether software engineering, plumbing or pub management, will have a better chance at succeeding if they have that.

  24. h4rm0ny

    BBC Comments

    I tried to put the same comment I wrote here on the story at the BBC. But apparently I was three-thousand characters over the limit. They restrict comments to small sound-bite length comments. Framing the dialogue in a way that allows no reasoned debate or deeper analysis than "this sucks" or "this is awesome". I gave up trying to self-edit it down as it just becomes one more partisan voice making an unsupported argument.

  25. pacman7de

    What Cellan-Jones actually wrote:

    What Cellan-Jones actually wrote:: "Now it's fair to point out that some of the criticism is mean spirited. There is a minority of older experienced programmers who see themselves and their craft as an exclusive band of brethren and will always be hostile to an initiative like this.

    A glance at the comments under a YouTube video of Lottie Dexter's Newsnight interview reveals a murky world of misogyny and coding snobbery".

  26. dogged

    How to teach maths

    Honestly?

    The way to teach Maths is not to teach maths. I can honestly say I never learned any maths at all in school until we got to sines, cosines, tangents and quadratic equations. I was in the classes but I learned absolutely nothing.

    I'd already learned it working for my father; a farmer. How many cattle do we have? How much cake does one spring heifer require per day over the winter as a grass supplement? Assume the weather doesn't break until April - how much have we got and how much do we buy in?

    Mrs Gregory wants 10lb of potatoes today but we generally sell them by the half-hundredweight bag, ie, 56lb. That was a fiver so how much for the 10lb she wants? Also, weigh that out when your scales take 56, 28, 14 and 7lb weights.

    Algebra is the substitution of "x" for "potato" or "hay bale". Arithmetic is the process of not starving your animals and not short-changing your customers or yourself.

    Geometry was interesting though :)

    Seriously, cookery works the same way and that's fashionable these days. Bring out the HomeEc teachers.

    And I don't know whether it's relevant or not but everyone I know who grew up with Imperial weights is way better at arithmetic than those who had easy-mode metric.

    But yeah. Don't teach maths until you get to non-physical concepts. Until then, teach life, which is maths.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: How to teach maths

      Perzactly! That's exactly the sort of thing my old school did before the local Labour council killed it off in the name of anti-elitism. Identify the kids who aren't academic, but are vocationally skilled, get them doing things like vehicle maintenance with the maths needed to support it and instead of failing Maths 'O' level they get a Mechanics HND *and* a Maths high scoring 'O' level.

      1. dogged

        Re: How to teach maths

        I don't think you need to be un-academic to benefit from this kind of teaching.

        I'm fairly convinced that a lot of teaching could be done this way before "A" levels, if not all.

        Say we do maths my way with spuds and cattle cake, actually having the kids run a "city farm" or whatever on school grounds - yes, even the country kids. At the point where they easily pass exams on arithmetic and fractions, you start teaching them architecture in the guise of technical drawing and going out with builders. This teaches geometry, stresses, loads, Pythagoras, all the good stuff.

        Then start teaching them about acoustics and you can bring in the physics and the wave-structures and the equations to deal with them.

        Basically, learning should be practical.

        For absolute best results, it should also be financially rewarding.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: How to teach maths

        Yes, I used to fall asleep in English lessons, because I have no imagination and English lessons were all about making things up - in other words, LYING! However, as soon as got to writing documentation or writing up experiments, I was flying away, because I was actually writing REAL stuff, not making things up. If I'd been able to submit my Technology projects as my English homework (or even my Geography projects) I'd have got something better than my 'C'.

        This also affected some of my university work as I did a couple of units Education (when I still naively considered entering teaching) and all my work was littered with things like: If a child is told X, then that child may take that on board, and that may cause them to do Y which may cause Z to happen which may result in....

    3. Trainee grumpy old ****

      Re: How to teach maths

      You've got me stumped!

      How do you weigh out 10 lbs using weights which are all multiples of 7? I can get 10.5 lbs but not 10, and that too it takes 2 weighings.

      Workings:

      a) Weigh out 21 lbs (14+7)

      b) Put the weights away and split the potatoes weighed in 'a' equally between the two pans.

      1. dogged

        Re: How to teach maths

        @Trainee etc

        Sorry. There was also a 1lb weight (very handy for things like green veg and fruit).

        Simple now, isn't it?

  27. electricmonk

    "Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office. Sporting two-day stubble, he enthuses that writing laws is really a form of computation, so we should make it more like a software project: legislation should be crowdsourced, and full of symbols. Get hip, legislators, he says, get like the coders!"

    I totally agree with this, though perhaps not in the way he meant. It's blatantly obvious that none of our legislation gets properly tested before it goes live. What we need is a "law test team" that looks at each new piece of legislation and says, "What could go wrong? How could I break this? If I press the wrong buttons, will it do something unexpected? Does it address all the bugs that were found in the legislation it replaces?" In other words, some professional software testers. If the draft legislation fails the test phase it goes back for fixing.

    The cynic in me thinks that laws are deliberately made ambiguous, contradictory and full of loopholes as that means more business for the lawyers who (surprise surprise!) mostly draft the stuff in the first place. But on the whole I think it's cockup rather than conspiracy.

    1. Raumkraut

      This, exactly this.

      It seems to me that there could be quite a lot about writing contracts and laws that is similar to writing software. Definitions, symbols, conditionals, GOTOs, etc.. I've thought for a while that it would be a good thing for a country or organisation to hire/contract a group of security professionals to parse, deconstruct, and analyse new laws or contracts *before* they go into force.

      1. cyborg

        It's a serious refactoring project.

        Of course if the law is easily interpretable that does mean lawyers are redundant. Serious conflict of interest there.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Raumkraut

        IN essence that's how the German legal system got written - by professionals - after the period we don't mention any more. The result is that litigation in Germany is not a goldmine for lawyers, who are paid about the same as softwar engineers.

    2. Robin Bradshaw

      Statute law in an SVN

      "For example, have a glimpse at this excruciating TED talk for MPs by Richard Heaton"

      I actually thought that was quite an impressive way of looking at things, and perhaps adding a bit of organisation to the mess that is law, when I have tried to look up legislation in the past I wanted the law as it now is, not the original bill and a massive list of amendments that other bills have made since and try to reconcile it, just like linux kernel 1.0 and a mountain of diffs isnt particularly usefull to me even if it would work to compile a current kernel.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    100% of teenagers thought it would be vital for their future job prospects

    According to Rory, Saul Klein, "who seems to be the moving spirit behind this campaign", 100% of teenagers thought it would be vital for their future job prospects.

    Meanwhile my (15yo) son is one of the ~20% in his year who chose Computing as an option for GCSE(almost 30% chose IT instead, a major drop since the Coalition removed the subject from the National Curriculum) hardly squares with that 100% rhetoric.

    Not a political point, the Coalition still have some way to go to equal the stupidity of Labour removing a compulsory foreign language from the KS4 curriculum.

    Apparently, Westminster and the BBC still have far to go applying literacy, numeracy and logic into their own little world.

    1. Mike Taylor

      Re: 100% of teenagers thought it would be vital for their future job prospects

      Hm, not sure about the national curriculum. Last year a foreign language was compulsory at my son's comp, this year it's not. That's new and shiny, and has to be a coalition thing, right?

  29. James Hughes 1

    I'm a school governor on the curriculum committee at a small primary school, as well a softie, as well as a volunteer for Raspberry PI, so that my credentials for what they are worth.

    People need to realise that teaching coding (and it's still very early stages) won't affect the basic reading, writing and numeracy teaching. A huge amount of effort goes in to teaching those with special educational needs (i.e. those who are not up to scratch in the basics), and that will not change with the introduction of a new subject. Every child who is below standard gets extra teaching (at least in the school I am involved with). So people should not be complaining that that is going to change just because there is now coding on the curriculum as well. It's a strawman argument.

    As for teaching coding itself, I believe that in order for children to make decent career choices, they need to be exposed to coding at school. That way you can find out whether the required aptitude is there. I would put money on there being some prospective best SW engineers in the world, currently sitting in a call centre somewhere, never having coded in their life.

    As for the benefits of teaching coding to all, there are a number of principles that are part and parcel of learning about coding that are beneficial even to those who do not end up in a coding career. Logical thinking, decomposing tasks in to subtasks, touch typing(!) etc. Even a basic knowledge of the complexities involved will help when some of these people make it in to management rather than a coding career.

    Now, whether the teaching needs to be as long as two years for all, I'm not convinced. I think 6 months for all might be adequate, then stream the people who want to do it/are good at it and get those who don't to concentrate elsewhere.

    Year of Code itself? Run by people who really don't know what to do. They have the wrong people in charge, which is sad because there are many people who have be working towards this for years and are very experienced, and who could have been brought in. Hopefully it will sort itself out, but since it seems to be heading the way of most government initiatives, I don't hold out too much home.

  30. The March Hare

    The Turtle Moves!

    Didn't kids used to use BBC micros and Logo years ago to make a robotic turtle move around the classroom?

    An introduction to a sort of BASIC and you got to make it do something cool

    Or am I too old? <sigh>

    1. Lallabalalla

      Re: The Turtle Moves!

      They still do, kinda - on a windows laptop, using drag n drop building blocks of logic - in year three.

      My [now 8yr old] has since moved on to playing with string concatenation/interleaving and basic calculators using the cheapest tools of all: javascript and a text editor, and a browser.

      He thinks building a simple addition calculator was very cool - and was amazed by a loop that printed out something 10,000 times :)

  31. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

    Simple solution.

    Legislate that it is prohibited for anyone under the age of 25 to learn about computers or to write and implement computational algorithms.

    Suddenly, the topic acquires a mysitque and subversive caché.

    Teenagers throughout the land will be clamouring to learn and understand the forbidden knowledge.

    It can't be worse than the current, ham-handed deployment of besuited politicos endeavouring to be "down wiv da kids" which is naff at best and seems to be quite counterproductive from what I have heard. Buuut, maybe that is their ultimate intention.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We don't have anyone competent to do that

    "Sporting two-day stubble, he enthuses that writing laws is really a form of computation, so we should make it more like a software project..."

    That is actually a thought that occurred to me about 25 years ago. (It fits in with my perennial question as to why programmers are paid less and considered socially inferior to lawyers, when the work they do is probably harder and more abstract).

    There is one big problem, though. If writing laws were treated like a proper software project, no law would ever yet have been finalized by Parliament. They'd all still be in perpetual debug mode.

    1. Pete 2

      Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

      > writing laws is really a form of computation, so we should make it more like a software project.

      The two other differences being that the CPU doesn't get to interpret the laws code it's told to execute - it just gets on and does what the code says: whether it's sensible or not - and that doesn't change subtly over time (yes: I do know about software rot). So at least there's the possibility of getting the result you intended - provided you code it properly - rather than what the CPU (or judiciary) thinks it should be.

      The other difference is that there isn't an entire other CPU, with vastly more incentive, power and time that is dedicated to finding reasons why your code shouldn't be executed, or how it could be bent, warped and subverted to do its own bidding. Although one could argue that is exactly what the Intel architecture does.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

      "If writing laws were treated like a proper software project, no law would ever yet have been finalized by Parliament. They'd all still be in perpetual debug mode."

      I think not. "Does it power up? Ship it."

    3. Luke McCarthy

      Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

      I do think the law should be in a git repository with full diff history.

    4. Trainee grumpy old ****
      Thumb Up

      Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

      > no law would ever yet have been finalized by Parliament. They'd all still be in perpetual debug mode.

      Given some legislation and some attempted legislation in the not so dim and distant past that possibly would be no bad thing.

  33. Eradicate all BB entrants

    The BBC never ....

    ..... listens to the populace as they are to busy trying to decide what we should think.

    Yes its a good idea, just introduce coding as part of the ICT structure in order to help them understand the relationship in regards to the whole IT stack, but not just because we need coders so therefore we need to train everyone in it.

    It's like trying to rebuild the motor manufacturing industry by training all school kids how to remap an ECU.

  34. OldPalmFan
    FAIL

    Another IT fad?

    Sorry but the Year of Coding has got me so worked up that I have to comment somewhere....

    Where to start.....

    I see lots of people in business who still use Word as an electronic typewriter with the added benefit of a spell checker.

    Excel? It adds columns of numbers doesn't it?

    My point here is that many people in business do not know how to use the basic tools that have been around now for many years. Or to put it another way, the level of IT literacy in many workers is still far too low.

    ICT in schools? My wife is a teacher in a Children's Centre. They have been waiting for months to get an internet connection into the classroom. They have iPads that might as well have stayed in their boxes because no-one thought about the need for iTunes to be installed onto PCs. The laptop that drives the whiteboard no longer boots and they cannot get anyone to fix it. Point? That some schools still need some of the IT basics in place and working.

    Year of Coding? Reminds me of the numeracy and literacy hour. My daughter was at school during that fad. Almost put her off maths and reading, and certainly put many of her friends off maths and reading.

    Speaking of maths, are not some of the most (be careful here...) proficient programmers either mathematicians or Physicists? Think Bletchley and the people there where computing was 'invented' and of course Tim Berners-Lee has a 1st class Physics degree. So if we want to develop good programmers then should we not start by putting more emphasis on maths and Physics in schools, and the coding can come later?

    OK, disjointed rant over. I'm sure that raising the profile if IT is a good thing, that some children might get enthused about coding and that the debate about what should be taught in schools when it comes to IT is definitely a good thing. However it seems to me that the debate has become reduced to a simple mantra - teach everyone to code - and that all our IT skills issues will be solved.

    No, they won't. It might put more people off IT than become the coders we need. And there is more to IT - so much more - than coding.

    Disclosure : I am an IT professional, I have a Physics degree, I don't code and I don't want to.

  35. Tim Worstal

    Haven't these people heard of the division and specialisation of labour?

    We no more want everyone to be able to code than we do want everyone to know how to fly a plane or build a house.

    There are some skills that we'd like pretty much everyone to have, yes. Literacy, numeracy, cooking, drive a car, these sorts of things. But coding just isn't one of them.

    To be able to *use* a computer, sure. But not to program one.

    In this gap in the timetable they could start teaching kids some economics. But then I would say that of course.,,,,

    True story: Roy Hattersley, who was at one time Sec of State for Prices, and at another Shadow Chancellor, was 80 years old before he found out that Adam Smith had written not only Wealth of Nations but also A Theory of Moral Sentiments. At least we could try getting the people who attempt to run the country up to speed on the basics of economics, no?

    1. dogged

      Re: Haven't these people heard of the division and specialisation of labour?

      > We no more want everyone to be able to code than we do want everyone to know how to fly a plane or build a house.

      I don't mean to speak for you here, but surely we don't mind if everyone wants to know how to fly a plane and build a house and are prepared to learn on their own time?

      I mean, it's not a bad thing. Is it?

      1. Tim Worstal

        Re: Haven't these people heard of the division and specialisation of labour?

        Sure, I was talking about what it was compulsory for children to be taught, not what people might want to learn on their own.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A lesson more valuable than learning the difference between a do while and a while do

    The most valuable lesson when it comes is:

    1. People are morons.

    The most frustrating part of my work is spending three months trying to get a meeting with a team only to have them stare at me blankly because they haven't given any thought to the program they are going to need in three months to do some task I have no knowledge of and they are supposed to explain to me in sufficient detail to write something useful. So instead of six months of rapid prototyping with user feed back, I end up crashing developing something in a month and hope some one senior enough puts their foot down and tells them they have to push a button on a website to kick the process off instead of emailing us to do it for them.

  37. Snake Plissken

    Very good joke

    "It's exceedingly rare for the BBC not to kick a Tory when he's down, or to rush to defend a Tory cock-up."

    Aha aha aha haaaa. Very good. Very funny.

    Oh heck, you weren't serious were you?

  38. Fenton

    At least give the kids some idea what "coding" is

    At least they won't then come out with the crap that coding can be taught in an hour.

    Modern coding is hard, especially for old gits like me, who grew up on BBC basic, Pascal and Fortran. I've just had to re-learn (just some visual basic and SQLserver), half the problem is finding out what is possible and already done for you, compared to having to do everything yourself like in the old days.

    So by all means show kids some programming, they might get an appreciation of the work that goes into their favourite App/Game.

    Also why not show kids something about electronics as well, alas another skill that is dying.

    Show them what is out there, let them decide what they want to learn

  39. R69

    Usual nonsense

    Lets turn what could be a genuinely cheap (free mobile & dev toolkits etc) exercise into a massively bloated PR laden wankfest, in which (as usual) a handful of individuals then milk the public purse for vast sums of cash, deliver approximately 7 tenths of bugger all and then f**k off into the sunset leaving a trail of unfinished crap behind them.

    .....which unfortunately is exactly what has also happened with every major Government IT initiative (Labour and ConDem) over the last 10 years or so.

    When will the get somebody who can make the piss up and brewery finally collide in an orgy of drunkness.

  40. Eponymous Cowherd
    Facepalm

    RCJ misses the point, again.

    But that isn't surprising considering his own ineptitude with regards to IT.

    The biggest problem with ICT in schools isn't that they don't teach coding. That's like saying the biggest problem with a music course is they don't teach the guitar..

    The problem with ICT teaching is they aren't teaching IT. At all. RCJ is correct when he says its mostly all Powerpoint, Excel and Word, but there is nothing inherently wrong with teaching those if the course was "Office Skills".

    ICT should, at GCSE level, be giving kids who take the subject a broad grounding in Computer Science, and that includes the basics of computer hardware, operating systems, networking, and software engineering (note: NOT just "coding").

    Perhaps the real problem is with the name. ICT. Information and Communication Technology. It doesn't match with what is being taught. Its like driving lessons being called something like "Automotive and Vehicle Technology".

    And as to Andrew's assertion that all the coding jobs will be going offshore? Offshoring is all well and good when things are going OK, but when things start going wrong the language barriers, cultural differences and time zone differences make resolving the problem much harder. And from experience things go wrong at least as often when offshored, if not more so. You often end up with as many local software engineers (usually expensive contractors) as you would have needed for the entire project to manage an offshore project with even minor problems.

    To finish, a personal gripe. Its that "C". Why add the C to IT? Information implies communication because information that isn't communicated isn't information at all. The "C" is redundant.

    1. Mike Taylor

      Re: RCJ misses the point, again.

      I'm not at all sure that GCSE is all about coding - my son is just looking at it, there's plenty of other stuff in there. Although they do hang it off a coding project, it's not 100% code. And neither should it be, for sure.

    2. Random Handle

      Re: RCJ misses the point, again.

      >Why add the C to IT? Information implies communication

      Stevenson - another self-confessed technical illiterate who was charged with fixing what was IT in schools until the late 1990s....largely forgotten here, but they have statues of him all over Bangalore (probably).

    3. Spamfast Bronze badge
      Alert

      Re: RCJ misses the point, again.

      "The "C" is redundant."

      And yet after twenty-nine years I'm still using it to write code for everything from PIC micros to multi-core servers. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

      Seriously, I just get depressed when I hear the political/business high-ups banging on about school education's purpose being to equip children for work. School is supposed to equip children for LIFE, not just work. As has been mentioned by others, school should be providing basic life skills, exposure to the various options for adult employment & most importantly the ability to reason & learn for oneself. I am especially sick of the likes of the CBI who just want the taxpayer to fund the staff training they used to pay for out of company funds so as to make even more profits. (Along with "Don't tax our profits. Oh, but subsidise our loses, of course.")

      * ageing leftie exits stage left, rant, rant, mutter, mutter *

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh really?

    > that "learning to code" immediately, and magically, gives a child an understanding of how computers

    > or networks work

    Looking at some of the festering piles the devs at my orkplace produce would rapidly disabuse them of that notion..

  42. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Coming down the pipes line like a runaway express bullet train and ...

    intangible to avoid phish phorming*

    Of course, this consultant class may actually be rearing a Dalek, nurtured on "computational education", which in 20 years' time will have achieved sentience and may be coming at us with hostile intent - and terrifying new weapons, the likes of which humanity has never seen. But realistically, looking around the social media consultants and digital whizzes at the BBC, I don't think this is a realistic prospect. …. Andrew Orlowski’s Bootstrapnote

    I would not disagree, Andrew , that it be most unlikely of the government lackey BBC but only a fool and tool of a similar ilk would deny and not fully expect it and something significantly better and constructively disruptive or catastrophically destructive of ….. well, let us just call it and them just for now, Free IT Enterprise AId Venturing Pioneers and Virtualisation Maestros.

    And if not snapped up and obscenely rewarded and ridiculously highly valued by the Wild Wacky West will the Erotic Exotic East lead the way in everything for everyone. And such be only quite perfectly natural whenever intelligence abhors a vacuum and stupefying inaction.

    *Application of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for an Order Requiring the Production of Tangible Things

  43. This post has been deleted by its author

  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    superficial at best

    I saw an article recently regarding this which commented that coding was the new Mandarin. I think that is spot on.

    I see parents now having their kids go to Chinese classes, as though an hour or two a week is going to give them any real benefit. Having learned Chinese some years ago, I can say that it is probably going to do nothing other than make them disinterested. They're certainly not going to end up speaking Chinese, other than the odd word. Coding seems to be no different.

    Chinese, coding and such skills can only be learned by people who have an interest and a desire to learn, and so commit their own time to it because they enjoy it. It's not a bad thing to have these options presented to kids, and to ensure that those that are interested have the opportunity to get access to the right facilities. But to think that forcing kids to reach a certain basic level in these things is going to make any positive contribution to the economy is wishy washy nonsense.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: superficial at best

      "I saw an article recently regarding this which commented that coding was the new Mandarin."

      Gakuen de nihongo wa deutsugo atarashi desu. ;)

    2. Tim Almond

      Re: superficial at best

      Complete waste of time, unless you are either a) interested or b) going on holiday

      The amount of time it takes to get to a level of fluency where you can use it in business is huge. It's why we have a small number of specialist translators, people who are good with languages, possibly raised in a bilingual home. And translators really aren't very expensive.

  46. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Unhappy

    On a more general level ..

    this is the result of successive governments disdain for anything practical, and the society it has shaped.

    A couple of years ago, I attended a careers evening at my sons school. They had the 3 local universities give a presentation on "why you should consider University". The guy from Birmingham university tempted the kids with a girl who had left university in 2009, and by 2011 was earning £40,000 a year, in New York.

    What was her subject ? Nuclear physics. Medicine ? Engineering ? Would we see a cure from cancer ? A better mousetrap ?

    No, she had studied political economics, and was working for a ****ing bank.

    Meanwhile, Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers et al command an impressive "Who" from kids who know the life history of every big brother contestant, or X factor finalist.

    We need an icon for "I weep salt tears" :(

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waste of time

    Personally, I enjoy coding but I can see that there's no long-term future in it.

    In the not-too-distant future all s/w will be written by AIs, which themselves will take the place of Operating Systems.

    At the most basic level, s/w could be developed by copying the method that got us here: Evolution. An AIOS could simply randomly mutate existing s/w at a binary level and then see if the s/w still works and then assess if there's any improvement. Very inefficient, of course, just like the real thing, except whereas evolution of life has taken a few billion years doing it in silicon would be considerably faster. The same basic process could be made more efficient by moving up a level to working with logic blocks instead of binary bits but in practice I suspect that directed mutation, as opposed to random mutation, would be even more efficient.

    For this to work though, it'll be necessary for the individual AIOSs to be able to communicate with each other, to compare and share results: Skynet anyone?

    Naturally, the big s/w houses won't be at all keen on the idea of being made redundant so when this eventually emerges from academia they'll be spreading a lot of FUD about it, and probably even pushing for legislation against it.

    Time scale: less than twenty years.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      In the Wastes of Time is Cogito ergo sum, AIdDiamond Gem to Germinate Understanding

      and Advanced Consciousness

      Hi LeeE,

      Nice to talk with you. And I agree with your perception, or if you like and prefer, I find your perception agreeable. It is after all applied shared perception which provides reality its base metadataphysicality, methinks, ergo IT is.

      And with particular and peculiar regard to any attempt to compete against and/or oppose .....For this to work though, it'll be necessary for the individual AIOSs to be able to communicate with each other, to compare and share results: Skynet anyone?

      Naturally, the big s/w houses won't be at all keen on the idea of being made redundant so when this eventually emerges from academia they'll be spreading a lot of FUD about it, and probably even pushing for legislation against it. ........ what a monumental waste of valuable time in free space that would be.

      Seems like whoever is advising Renegade Barack Obama are more aware and quite rightly concerned about the powers that be now readily available for trading in CyberSpace Command and Control where there is nothing tangible to attack and destroy but where all Earthly assets are ....... well, arraigned and assigned says it all quite succinctly methinks. I refer of course to this phishing exercise and executive order wish list/hit list of targets ....... EXECUTIVE ORDER... IMPROVING CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE CYBERSECURITY

      And to inquire further as to the whom and for the what is the power being displayed and horse traded, will have one lined up against a Great Game Virtual Wall of China Firewall and information and intelligence one needs to know hardly anyone else knows, and it be worth an absolute fortune in rigged markets, which makes it, quite perversely and conversely, also extremely attractive and even addictive to a certain class of player/non-state state actor type.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      In the Wastes of Time ..... is Cogito ergo sum, AIdDiamond Gem to Germinate Understanding

      and Advanced Consciousness

      Hi LeeE,

      Nice to talk with you. And I agree with your perception, or if you like and prefer, I find your perception agreeable. It is after all applied shared perception which provides reality its base metadataphysicality, methinks, ergo IT is.

      And with particular and peculiar regard to any attempt to compete against and/or oppose .....For this to work though, it'll be necessary for the individual AIOSs to be able to communicate with each other, to compare and share results: Skynet anyone?

      Naturally, the big s/w houses won't be at all keen on the idea of being made redundant so when this eventually emerges from academia they'll be spreading a lot of FUD about it, and probably even pushing for legislation against it. ........ what a monumental waste of valuable time in free space that would be.

      Seems like whoever is advising Renegade Barack Obama are more aware and quite rightly concerned about the powers that be now readily available for trading in CyberSpace Command and Control where there is nothing tangible to attack and destroy but where all Earthly assets are ....... well, arraigned and assigned says it all quite succinctly methinks. I refer of course to this phishing exercise and executive order wish list/hit list of targets ....... EXECUTIVE ORDER... IMPROVING CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE CYBERSECURITY

      And to inquire further as to the whom and for the what is the power being displayed and horse traded, will have one lined up against a Great Game Virtual Wall of China Firewall and information and intelligence one needs to know hardly anyone else knows, and it be worth an absolute fortune in rigged markets, which makes it, quite perversely and conversely, also extremely attractive and even addictive to a certain class of player/non-state state actor type.

  48. confusinglyso
    Childcatcher

    Preparation for September

    I have signed up for this course

    https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/teaching-computing-part-1

    to see what help grandchildren may need come September.

    It would be great to see what comments come from Register Regulars (or would Irregulars be the preferred name) if they care to view the course content.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Preparation for September

      You're asking us? But we're all misogynists and snobs!

      Actually, I had a look at the link, and it was lacking in any detail, from what I could see.

  49. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Yes, it's disgusting that 100% of school children aren't able to play the violin, and millions of pounds must be splurged on compulsory violin lessons, and anybody who complains is a misogynist and a snob.

  50. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I was implementing some floating-point arithmetic over the summer. For that I absolutely utterly needed my 'O' level maths instruction in logarithms and exponents, and how you multiply by adding powers and - shock horror - why the bare bones of long multiplication works. That's not even touched in today's GCSEs. "Push the buttons and get the answers, and stop pestering the teacher."

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The difficulty with making 'coding' or 'programming' whatever that is, a mainstream educational subject that is taught to all pupils, is that teachers will end up only teaching to the lowest quartile of the class and only to the key stage requirements, this may put off the best and brightest as they then see programming as a boring subject that they spend most of the lesson looking out of the window during. Perhaps as when I (and probably most on here) was in school, allow those who want to, program and those those that don't, not.

  52. Simone

    What IS the problem!

    Looking at the stories about IT issues or failures often reveals that the IT project failed to gain the understanding between what the customer wanted and what was coded. In between these two steps is the design step that needs people on both sides of the contract to understand both the IT principles and the business processes. I often visit clients where the "office youngster" has "written" a spreadsheet for some office task, because they found themselves ahead of those that have not been taught, but has now moved on. It saves a lot of clerical effort but puts enormous holes in the process auditability, and no one knows how it works. We teach youngsters MS Office without the principles that need to be followed in IT.

    If more people in organisations understood IT principles enough so they can have meaningful discussion with an IT Consultant they have just hired, those IT projects could be designed better. The internet is full of projects that someone has started and dropped or is "rambling on" because there is not a good understanding of what it should do; these projects need design, management, leadership, documentation and testing, none of which need expert code writers.

    The Raspberry Pi Foundation have stated that the Pi is not for classrooms but for students; a subtle difference that suggests they would be better in after school clubs than in mainstream classes. Like science, engineering and languages some people won't see the point and just want the IT in their phone or games console to "just work". It is the others, who find them interesting or even fascinating, that we should be filtering out and encouraging, not for a life of programming, but for the other things that are important to business.

    This Year Of Code seems to be trying to muscle in on the success of the Pi, which has shown that some need exists; I just don't think it can be simplified to one topic. Look at documentation for the Pi, a lot of it is trivial or out of date and published to grab whatever money was there to get. This shows that the Year of Code will not be much different.

    I knew an IT manager, who spent a lot of time talking to business users, trying to get them to answer his question: "What you have asked me for is your solution; can you explain to me what the problem is so the IT department can find you the right solution"

  53. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    The problem is that when I hear the word "code" or any of its derivative terms I think of a few things, but none of the things I think of are "writing some HTML" - which is a noble and worthwhile thing to teach kids but isn't what will bring a new crop of software programmers to the table in the next working generation.

    Unfortunately, the pololiticians and these "consultants" seem to think coding a website by hand is somehow Deep Thought stuff.

    Thing is, for 90% of the stuff that needs to be done in your average IT shop, that Comp Sci degree isn't really necessary. Useful, but not essential if you are willing to consider a return to the apprenticing model of old-style engineering, where hands on skills came first and school qualifications were a desirable adjunct.

    Of course, that would necessitate a change of culture in the industry and a return to building a staff for the long term rather than the self-fulfilling expectation that the staff will go elsewhere to advance their careers.

    By 'eck.

  54. Katherine Bean
    Devil

    Project Management

    "This kind of activity teaches children lots of ITC skills that "coding for all" doesn't, and some of these are also things the UK isn't very good at - such as project management and customer support. (The latter we can't outsource fast enough, with dire results.) "

    I would suggest that one of the biggest problems in the UK is the lack of professionalism, particularly when you can have cheap. I know of people who with no training, no experience, no idea, pitched up one day and applied for jobs to become Project Managers. Eventually, with the right 'talk' they got jobs.

    If, on the other hand, those looking for PMs were to employ either permanently or on contract etc., people who did know what they were doing, had experience, did the courses and had qualifications, the management of projects would be much better.

    Pay for professionals and you get professionals!

    Those of us who know what we are doing, are professionals, etc., do not want to be part of the group of people who "are not very good".

    K

    1. dogged

      Re: Project Management

      I find this a stretch.

      How do YOU go about project managing a truly Agile project given that one of a decent implementation of Agile's effects is the increasing redundancy of project managers and their thrice-cursed Gantt charts?

      Probably much the same way any other PM does. Draw up meeting schedules and claim to be a scrum master or whatever. 95% of project management is make-work that the dev team lead should be doing. The other 10% is project office stuff and that's actually useful when you need a new pen.

      Project Management? Pay for professionals so that you get professional timewasting know-nothing bullshitters instead of those dreadful amateurs. Right?

      1. dogged
        Facepalm

        Re: Project Management

        Alright, 95% + 10%....

        Typing too fast, didn't spot it until the "Edit" time window was gone...

  55. xnfec

    Outsource Coding to India, China and Vietnam

    What makes you think they won't be able to innovate and manage cheaper than us too?

  56. Peter Prof Fox

    Wou'dn't it be wonderful if...

    Everyone was a Shakespearean actor

    100 metres winner

    Able to understand the difference between General and the other sort of relativirt?

    And so on.

    Yes.

    Now let's ask if say, Human Relationships, can be taught in five hours and what the benefit might be. Coding (in it's basic form) is a mechanical skill without any more value than train spotting. Immature people often end up as programmers but immature programming is neither software engineering nor application development.

    Like clocks go tick and cows go moo so programmers go WCPGW (What could possibly go wrong) To understand WCPGW you need maturity.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem solving and troubleshooting

    Problem solving and troubleshooting - those are the critical skills that programming teaches a child. The focus shouldn't be on the syntax or the tools used - those are just a means to the end - but the process of designing, of architecture, then reconciling actual outcome to expected outcome - that's invaluable.

    However, I have no opinion if these proposals will be effective or not. I'm US-based and have not been following the conversation closely. But the concept - that learning how to code is a worthwhile process, that can impact skills across the educational landscape - is in my experience correct.

    I taught computer science at a high school level in the US for several years - I saw the benefits of inducing this critical thinking first-hand. Learning to code would increase understanding and participation across many different subjects, not just math and science. It made my students better at thinking, for lack of a better term - more disciplined in approach, less fearful of technology they didn't understand, and provoked a deeper understanding of process and problem solving.

    There certainly were children who didn't have an innate talent, who struggled to understand the concepts - though interestingly, those children generally were the most passionate about coding once it "clicked." I'd love to see a *well-designed* universal coding curriculum across every school - again, not to teach practical coding ability, but because the process of learning how to code makes us better thinkers. IMHO. :)

  58. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    FAIL

    "Coding" a website in an hour?

    I'm certainly not an elitist snob, and welcome anything that can improve coding skills, but that's justnit : Improving skills.

    Ok, so in a short time, someone may be able to knock up a program or website that 'sort of' works, but they'll gave no understanding of how things actually work - it will be more tag-soup html, a return to 'geocities'-type sites, and as for coding: inefficient use of cpu or memory, or stability or security, bugger-flows and hack-vectors abound!

    Listen again to that Newsnight clip, and whenever the kiddies or adults say 'coding', substitute in the words 'plumbing', 'building', or 'wiring'.

    It basically sounds like encouraging cowboys

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "Coding" a website in an hour?

      "bugger-flows" was meant to read 'buffer overflows', obviously(!)

  59. Mike 137 Bronze badge

    What really wrong with this

    The most obvious fatal error in this whole "cunning plan" is the assumption that "coding" should be the objective. Coding is merely the manipulative mechanical skill used to realise programming (an instance of intellectual and creative problem solving).

    If we just teach our kids "coding" we will finish up with echelons of unemployable incompetents, whereas teaching programming can result in expanding their mental capacities (just as chess or Latin do) for those with an appropriate mind set to start with, which should make life more interesting for them, quite apart from any direct benefit for employment as software developers. The undeniably abysmal quality of software today (monthly "patches" to fix silly mistakes, security breaches &c.) is a direct result of too many people already just learning to code rather than to program.

    The second, and equally egregious, error is the assumption that teachers can be taught to teach "coding" in "a day" (http://politicalscrapbook.net/2014/02/tory-boss-of-government-coding-education-initiative-cant-code-lottie-dexter/), or indeed any other short period without a preparatory grasp of both the first principles that underlie the technologies and a grounding in analytical and logical thinking.

    Oh dear, did I say "thinking" - how absurd...

  60. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Heavy MetaDataBase

    Thanks for the heads up on code that be indefensible and unbeatable, Andrew. That which is thought not fit to print and share whenever shared for printing is most probably a mkultrasensitive state secret to more than just a terrified few.

  61. Tim Almond

    Show Coding to Kids...

    ... and then leave it to the computer clubs.

    Not everyone has to understand code. It's an important part of business, but then, so is sales and not everyone is good at sales. Getting kids fired up who might not be would be useful.

    And no, I have no faith in YearOfCode. I did, but you can't have someone running it who doesn't understand it. History shows that managers can't just be enthusiastic amateurs in the subject.

  62. Cellar-dweller

    No wonder the UK is screwed!! Last one out, turn off the light.

    This whole thing is typical of the UK. Its driven by middle class public school boys who wanted to go into law/the city but couldn't cut it [and therefore washed up in politics], consultants that are unable to produce anything useful, or media types that think the i-pod is the biggest technological revolution mankind has seen [and can't cope with anything more taxing than changing their mobiles ring tone]. The whole thing is is another coat of slap on the face of a pox ridden whore of an education system.

    My four year old recently came home with a maths homework which included "estimate how many stairs are in your house and count them"...ans=57..WTF! What about basic arithmetic up to something manageable like 20. This is the problem, we are that busy doing stuff that's easy and palatable we are not thinking what we are going to do with it at the end of the process. Fine teach a 10yr old kid an application like powerpoint by spoon-feeding, but this type learning will be useless by the time they are 16. What's the point. Teach them skills that allow them to discover for themselves and teach them to think of applications as tools to do stuff not an end in themselves. We need curious people with a good mental tool kit, not a generation that fellates itself on how well they can use Microsofts latest release of office. Are our aspirations really that low..

    Anyway shouldn't the BBC/Government etc. be more concerned about how we creating an economy where all these developers have somewhere to go and something to do rather than sponsoring this sort of bull whilst our economic recovery is propelled by a state sponsored housing boom in the south east and shopping. Give the kids the tools, a little knowledge and something that interests them [blowing stuff up worked well for me when I was 11!] and they will do much better than spending their time in school being spoon fed and measured by these well meaning but highly deluded pr1ck$!

  63. streaky

    I've said it before many times - the key here isn't blasting code at kids, it's finding the ones who are naturally interested (not necessarily that they're good at heavy maths, we don't need that) via some sort of taste-based learning - and then nurture them, probably with some genuinely taxing, but fun, lesson structure.

    I've been through this country's education system recently *enough* to know what the issues are and now I'm a professional software developer. Probably the biggest single issue for me is that teachers don't get paid enough to attract people who know what they're doing to teaching short of the possibility that they just sold their faceback app to google for 43Bn and now want to give their time to the public good (which realistically isn't going to happen).

    It's true that all kids should be learning how computers work a bit more over just learning how to input data into excel (and how to deal with macs crashing every 30 seconds) like we did at school, but not all should be writing code.

    As for misogyny, I don't think there is anybody who doesn't want more women writing code (and thusly - in context - girls learning it like us boys did when we were kids) but the issue isn't the men who are doing it so much as the way girls are raised to like barbie and play with their Mattel cooking-related toys which sets them on the path to being housewives in the first place.

  64. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    A couple of points

    First, the BBC guy did not say that all objectors were snobs or misogynists. He did, in passing mention misogynistic comments on some posting or another, and I don't doubt he found them.

    Second, while I am sure that Ms. Mulqueeny knows exactly what she's talking about, I am equally sure that I don't. Could somebody post a translation for American readers?

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: A couple of points

      "Second, while I am sure that Ms. Mulqueeny knows exactly what she's talking about, I am equally sure that I don't. Could somebody post a translation for American readers?"

      ... and for us brits too!

  65. ivan_llaisdy

    My fantasy curriculum

    Here are some ideas toward my fantasy curriculum, for late juniors (i.e., age 8ish to 11ish).

    I think intelligence (as in "what IQ tests measure") can be thought of as "pattern recognition" --- an always-on facility or habit of noticing patterns. The main force of an early curriculum should be to promote this habit by looking at and learning about patterns of different types. So, the central subjects will be maths, music and language.

    Maths: If the early juniors can establish basic numeracy (and literacy), then yes I think 7 or 8 is a good time for simple set theory. This will open up topics like functions as mappings between sets, type theory, and propositional logic (which is just set theory really). There is a lot of scope for fun lessons through quite challenging terrain.

    (as far as computer programming goes, 11 or 12 year olds with this background could be happily getting into scheme or haskell, and if senior schools are to teach programming generally, scheme is by far the best choice of language).

    Music: playing: explorations in tonality; listening: Haydn.

    Language: learning a foreign language is an exposure to another type of pattern. I don't think it matters much which language(s). French seems to be traditional in Britain, mostly I think because of the weather and the food (and wine) (oh and the culture of course); the language itself is probably quite difficult for first language English speakers (weird sounds and spelling, hideously complicated tense system, ...).

    In maths and music, and in English lessons, the children will also be learning rhetoric. Aristotle called rhetoric the art of making oneself understood. I think of rhetoric as mapping a logical structure onto spacetime: setting out a maths problem on a page; playing out a scale as a melody. This laying things out is another kind of pattern.

    Apart from music, this is pretty much the traditional trivium. The next most central layer would be sport (fitness, teams, athletics) and art/craft (splashing paint around, making things). Finally, "science" (lots of experiments, finding out what happens, explaining) and "humanities" (history, geography, general knowledge).

    Thanks

    Ivan

    p.s. I like that Maths is fun site too!

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