coding curriculum criticism
Do ill-equipped teachers and the "disappearance of coding" point to an elaborate government PR stunt?Tommaso Nervegna/ CC

When Lottie Dexter appeared on Newsnight earlier this year to promote the Year of Code campaign, the first thing she told interviewer Jeremy Paxman was that she herself did not know how to code. Despite being the director of the government-backed initiative, Dexter had not bothered to spend the hour she claimed it took to learn to code before appearing on the show.

The next five minutes of the interview continued in this farcical manner, peppered with dangerously clueless comments like "you can do very little in less time", "I don't know how to wire a light bulb" and, in summary, "it doesn't mean anything to you, or indeed me yet because I don't know how to code."

Skip to 5.30 to see Lottie Dexter's interview fiasco on Newsnight.Youtube

Dexter subsequently stepped down from her role and the Year of Code has since dipped off the radar, with any attempts to contact them proving futile.

PR stunt?

Dexter's now infamous appearance has been used by some critics to demonstrate how the introduction of coding into the classroom through the new national curriculum is mostly an elaborate publicity stunt designed to falsely inflate the UK's tech credentials.

"Coding is seen as the new Latin by the posh boys," believes Donald Clark, the former CEO of Epic Group and a self-described evangelist for the use of technology in learning. "(Coding) is a rather stupid obsession where politicians and PR people, none of whom can code, latch on to 'reports' by people who have no business sense or worse, a regressive agenda."

Clark has warned that England lacks enough teachers with the coding and relevant teaching abilities to effectively introduce the new computing programmes of study that every child between the age of five and 16 must learn from this week.

The chair of the Computing at School (CAS) group responsible for putting the new curriculum together has admitted that teachers are "under-equipped and under-supported" - a view shared by teachers contacted by IBTimes UK.

"There is not enough support for teachers from the government," said one Bristol-based teacher who requested not to be named. "Many of the teachers I work with didn't even find out about the changes to the curriculum and their implications until quite late. In February (2014) it still wasn't clear what was going on."

Coding will 'disappear'

Through introducing coding as a core part to the computing curriculum, the government has perpetually proclaimed that it is a vital skill that children need to learn. Some critics, however, claim that this is a falsehood, going as far as to say that coding as we know it will no longer be necessary or even relevant in the future.

coding in the classroom

Emmanuel Straschnov, co-founder of the visual programming tool Bubble, believes that only 20% of future websites and apps will actually be created using today's programming languages, like Javascript, HTML and C++.

Straschnov believes that visual programming is in fact the future, whereby people with no technical background, such as artists or entrepreneurs, can make apps and websites without actually needing to know how to code.

"Coding is going to disappear because people are going to use it less," Straschnov tells IBTimes UK. "Instead of teaching everyone how to code - because code is not efficient, slow and actually quite boring for most people - we should just give the tools so that people don't have to know how to code anymore in order to build 80% of applications that won't actually require it."

"The vision is that people shouldn't even have to know what a server is. The vision is that people should only know: I want my app to this, this and that and then you build it. It takes time but it's faster than code and you can do it without technical skills."

If such claims turn out to be true, it will be more than Dexter's interview that proved to be a car crash. It will be the entire computing curriculum.

Tech Talk: New Computing Curriculum Brings Coding to the ClassroomIBTimes UK