Everyone needs to learn computing

Most importantly, we need an overhaul of our educational system so that computing becomes part of the core requirements


By Alexiei Dingli and Rose Marie Azzopardi

Five hundred businesses, educators and thought leaders just got together and wrote a letter stating that every student in compulsory schooling needs to learn computing!

Most of these people are world-renowned and range from  Bill Gates (Founder, Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Founder, Amazon), Tim Cook (CEO, Apple), Sundar Pichai (CEO, Google), David Solomon (Chairman, Goldman Sachs) and many others. But they’re not alone in crying for this change; parents, students, teachers, and employers also support their call.

Computing is not only a subject essential for those working in technology. It is crucial as much as the numeracy and literacy core components because most jobs use computers today.

Even if they don’t use computers now, they will start doing so in the coming years. But it’s not only that; computing teaches children how to think and solve problems creatively, a desirable skill in this day and age. Recent studies have shown that students who learn computing at school tend to outperform their peers in schools, universities and the workplace.

When digital technology is seeping into every workplace, schools should be at the forefront to prepare our future generation of workers. They should teach students to understand emerging technologies and push them towards becoming creators rather than just consumers.

After all, we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist. We can’t keep teaching twenty-first-century children using methodologies of the twentieth-century in a nineteenth-century school model.

Unfortunately, only a few lucky ones manage to get the skills to survive in this new digital world, leaving many students behind, especially those from the most disadvantaged groups.

In Malta, only around 15% of students study computing. This figure is not only unacceptable but also rather worrying considering our growing dependency on technology.

It is not surprising that employers are constantly searching for ICT professionals, with some sectors reporting shocking shortages. There have been various improvements in recent years, but we need to do more. The following are the reasons why:

Every child needs to be prepared for the future. They should have the opportunity to learn computing from their early years up to the end of secondary school, and it should be considered a core subject.

The supply of computing devices to every child should proceed in secondary schools so that students learn to use a computer while also using it for other tasks. Let’s not forget that one of the factors which the pandemic unveiled is the digital disparity between families who could afford a computer per child and those who couldn’t.

Remote work is opening new opportunities for everyone. Employees can pursue careers anywhere around the globe, thus providing them with a higher source of income whilst still living in their community.

There’s a world shortage of ICT professionals. The USA needs around 700,000 professionals and Europe about half a million. The number of graduates yearly is much less, close to 12%, yet the demands are constantly increasing.

Learning computing is not just about knowing how to use technology. That’s a small part of it. The most significant chunk is analysing problems methodically, a skill acquired from most STEM subjects and using technology to identify plausible solutions creatively.

As Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

So all of us have to do our tiny part. More companies, irrespective of their industry, are creating new opportunities in tech. But all this hard work will be useless if our upcoming workforce is unprepared for this.

Furthermore, with the coming tsunami of digitalisation that will hit us in the coming years, one thing is for sure, there will be a lot of disruptions since digital skills will become extremely valuable. Because of this, workers must start a reskilling or upskilling process, thus making them more flexible to work in the future labour market.

Most importantly, we need an overhaul of our educational system so that computing becomes part of the core requirements.

The truth is that even though there are various initiatives by different government agencies, the private sector and other NGOs, they will never manage to produce enough people to satisfy the rising demand. At most, they can inspire students to choose that specialisation, but this is not enough.

It’s also important to clarify that by adding computing as a core subject, we don’t envisage everyone becoming an ICT expert. But if a person is equipped with ICT skills, he can apply them to other sectors like pharmacy, architecture, medicine or even agriculture.

By doing so, those fields of study start a much-needed wave of technological innovation, thus spurring more productivity, increased efficiencies and lowering costs. The time is ticking because we will see the result of today’s actions in a decade, so let’s start today before it is too late!

To tackle these challenges, the HSBC Malta Foundation is sponsoring The Human Capital Research Project. This is supported by the Ministry of Education, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, the Malta Business Bureau, the University of Malta and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.

The project aims to analyse the current and future economic environments, assessing their impact on Malta’s labour market while also highlighting the skills needed. Further details can be found at https://www.facebook.com/HumanCapitalResearchProject

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