The phrase ‘life-long learning’ is often bandied about these days. This is the case for one very clear reason: never has the need to learn new skills, to re-skill and up-skill on a consistent basis, been more pressing at every stage – not just of our schooling – but of our entire lives. We need to keep learning, keep up-to-date and keep ahead of the curve.
The irony of it all is that our formal education sector has barely been transformed when compared with most other industries. Look at our schools. Okay, interactive whiteboards might have replaced chalkboards. Similarly, you will see technology in every classroom in the country today – but, children still sit on desks, in rows. They still are largely assessed by written, terminal examinations. The pen has replaced the quill, but that hardly brings us into the 21st century.
In many ways, what we learn and the way we learn has hardly changed in a century. However, the world has changed immeasurably. Britain needs to start training the next generation of coders. And it needs to be doing it now.
What is currently being done to train for the future?
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is at least an acceptance that coding is a highly powerful tool and a vital skill for the future. Coding is now a mandatory aspect of the National Curriculum in the UK. This is a positive step, and one that does place the UK ahead of some countries. However, it could hardly be described as a revolution in educational terms. And that’s what is really needed.
Still on a positive note, the University of Bath is leading from the front with the launch of the Institute of Coding. This brings together over 60 organisations in collaboration to create a forward-thinking institution of higher education learning focusing on the business skills of the future. With the likes of IBM, Cisco and Future Learn on board, it is an initiative that should have real clout.
To be world-leading, more needs to be done
However, despite these encouraging signs there is still much, much more that the UK needs to do to be considered as genuine world leaders.
In France, Emmanuel Macron’s Tech Visa has the ambitious aim of transforming the country into a nation of start-ups – and not just one focused on creating French founders. With Brexit looming this should have alarm bells ringing in the UK tech sector. Will developers choose the UK after its withdrawal from the EU is complete, when other nations are doing so much for appeal and to attract?
Across the globe – from Canada’s massive investment in the Vector Institute to all Singaporeans being awarded an individual training budget and individual learning portfolio – innovative initiatives are being launched. All of these serve as an uncomfortable reminder that any head start or advantage that the UK feels it might have at present as a tech hub could be lost all too quickly. Failure to keep up could have catastrophic consequences.
Paris’s Ecole 42 is perhaps the most innovative approach yet. It is a privately-funded school where are no fees for its students. Not only that, there are no academic entry requirements and no curriculum as such. What’s more, it doesn’t even have any teachers. Five years after it started its 1000 places were fought over by over 75,000 applicants. Ecole 42 is now producing a steady line of top tech talent.
Initiatives in the UK have tended to be lacking in size and scope, investment and suffered from poor communication. These failings simply cannot be allowed to continue.