British Columbia

Christy Clark's plan to teach coding to kids flawed says educator

A computer science educator and web developer has questions about the B.C. government's plan to teach coding to all kids in schools. Where's the funding? Where's the teacher training? What about computer availability? And what about slow internet in many places?

Melody Ma says many kids without high-speed internet and there's not enough computers in schools

Participants take part in HTML500, a course teaching computer coding skills. While the B.C. government wants all kids in K-12 schools to learn coding, one educator isn't sure the province is ready to make that happen. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Premier Christy Clark announced this week that the government will be providing basic computer coding training in all schools, from kindergarten to Grade 12.

However, one computer science educator believes the plan needs some debugging.

Melody Ma, a Vancouver-based web developer and kids coding advocate, says there has been no new funding announced to support this announcement, and no detailed, coherent plan.

"How are we going to provide the resources and training in place for teachers who are in service right now, as well as pre-service, to get them to the point where they feel comfortable teaching coding and computer science in the classroom?" she asked On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Ma also said equipment and internet availability are huge barriers to giving all kids the chance to learn coding.

"I was doing a kids' coding workshop in Prince George with 100 kids in an old high school, and we had to do it offline because there wasn't enough bandwidth to support the internet," she said. "There are children in communities that are still on dial-up. Parents and teachers are fundraising, selling bubble tea to in order to get the equipment in the schools for our kids to actually learn how to code."

Melody Ma, left, believes the government's plan to have all kids learn coding hasn't been fully thought out. (CBC)

Ma also takes issue with Education Minister Mike Bernier's assertion that kids don't need computers to learn coding.

"If we are regarding coding at a similar level, in their view, as woodworking, a vocational skill, then do you not need tools and wood to do woodworking?" she asked. "I'm a web developer, and it's pretty hard to go to work and tap on the tables to actually code. That's why 'computer science' has the word 'computer' in it."

Ma thinks the province is looking at computer science as a vocational skill and is simply trying to create workers. She'd  like to see more focus on the "soft benefits" of computer science like computational thinking and creativity with code.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: All kids to learn coding? Educator says plan has unanswered questions