European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has written a letter to EU Education Ministers urging them to ensure that children have the opportunity to develop basic computer coding skills in school.
The letter, jointly signed with Neelie Kroes, Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, states that coding skills are part of the solution to youth unemployment and a growing skills gap in the ICT sector, which is expected to see a shortage of 900 000 ICT practitioners by the end of 2020.
"Coding cannot just support studies in maths, science, technology and engineering. Coding will also directly help students to develop transversal skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving, team working, and creativity. Starting early means that they will be more inclined to consider computer science studies and ICT related careers," the Commissioners write.
They also urge Ministers to encourage children to get involved in this year’s EU Code Week, which will take place from 11 until 17 October. The first EU Code Week took place in November 2013 as a grassroots initiative and featured over 300 events involving more than 10 000 people in 26 European countries.
Commissioner Vassiliou and Vice-President Kroes jointly launched the Opening up Education initiative last year to boost innovation and digital skills in schools and universities. This need had also already been stressed in the Commission's 2012 Rethinking Education strategy.
Why is coding important?
Coding is the literacy of today. Each and every interaction on computers is governed by code. Programming is fundamental to the understanding of a hyper-connected world. Basic coding skills will also be needed for many jobs in the near future. It is also seen as a way to attract more girls to choose tech careers. More than 90% of professional occupations nowadays require some ICT competence, but the number of graduates in computer science is not keeping pace with this demand for skills.