Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Downton Abbey' World Will Lead to Coding Class Divide

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Downton Abbey' World Will Lead to Coding Class Divide

Article excerpt

Non-programmers likely to have lower status, expert warns

School-leavers will soon be entering a "Downton Abbey" society, where those who can code will enjoy life upstairs, while those who cannot program computers languish in the equivalent of the scullery, an expert has warned.

Ian Yorston (pictured, below), director of digital strategy at Radley College, an independent boys' school in Oxfordshire, said that those who knew how to manipulate computers would have "significantly more power", whereas non-programmers would end up "forever cross that they are being told to do things by machines".

It was therefore important to teach children not only programming but also the potential of computers, robots and artificial intelligence, Mr Yorston said.

Teaching coding was more effective at a younger age, because pupils were more easily satisfied with the results of their efforts, he added. Older children expected better outcomes quickly and this could lead to "disillusionment", he said.

Mr Yorston's comments come just over a month after Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales raised concerns that the new compulsory computing curriculum, which applies to all children aged 5 to 14, might be too much for pupils (bit.ly/CurriculumCoding).

"Everyone should be exposed to it [coding], and a little bit of programming can really ramp up your skill level, but that doesn't mean you have to become a master programmer," Mr Wales told TES.

The curriculum was introduced this September with strong support from some of the biggest names in the industry, including Google and Microsoft.

The reforms were instigated after former education secretary Michael Gove scrapped the ICT curriculum, labelling it "too off-putting, too demotivating, too dull". It taught students how to use Word and Excel rather than how to create their own programs; to be users rather than makers, Mr Gove said.

It is hoped that the new curriculum will prepare young people for an ever-changing job market, where numerous jobs will be made obsolete by advances in technology.

After giving a speech to the Independent Schools Council's ICT Strategy Conference last week, Mr Yorston, a former RAF electronic warfare officer, told TES: "If you watch Downton Abbey, you've got all these people above stairs who give instructions to people below stairs and those people then do as they are told.

"I think we might finish up in a similar world here. …

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