Learning a foreign language is emphasized in the U.S. education system and for a good reason. Mastering another language promotes global awareness, exposes students to different cultures and can be beneficial in the international business world.
Being multilingual is certainly a notable attribute, but in addition to spoken vernaculars, there are other languages arguably more integral in shaping the future of business -- namely, the coding languages that make up enterprises’ robust backend structures. These languages are fast becoming more important for students to learn an early age.
The reality is, with fewer students choosing to study foreign languages, programming languages are shaping business in this century and well into the future.
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Tides of change -- renewed investment in student business literacy.
Some of President Obama’s remarks in his final State of the Union Address expressed his interest in investing in computer science education, as he outlined his plans to help students learn to write computer code in hands-on classroom lessons “to make them job-ready on day one.”
Many of the country’s largest public school systems have announced their intentions to expose students to computer science. As it stands in the U.S., approximately one-tenth of high schools offer a computer science course, as estimated by the Computer Science Teachers Association. This estimate does not factor in middle and elementary schools.
To spur the tides of change, President Obama asked the U.S. Congress to fund a $4 billion program for states and an additional $100 million for districts to train teachers and get the necessary tools for elementary, middle and high schools to provide computer science classes. These funding programs will appear in President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal, the latest of the White House’s efforts to bring more science and technology education to students.
To combat skills gaps, computer science education is key.
Whether or not Congress accepts the proposal, it’s going to be a nationwide imperative for schools to teach modern students how to handle data, integrate that data into applications and understand strategies to solve problems related specifically to software. There are already areas in which computer science education is noticeably hamstringed, such as a serious skills gaps and a slim talent pool for IT departments.
Schools bear the responsibility to grow the talent pool by making sure students possess the computer science background many will be expected to have when they join the workforce. The importance of this cannot be underscored as the global economy evolves, spurred by technology and the increasing progression to digital business models. Take the recent Oxford Economics global survey of senior business and technology executives as an example. The survey found 78 percent of enterprises believe the shift to becoming a software-driven business will be a critical driver of competitive advantage.
In an era of digital transformation, businesses know the relationship between producers and consumers is also evolving, and they’ll have to engage customers through new channels using apps and multimedia content. This is driven by trends in mobile, multichannel and transforming social digital landscapes. Being able to read, understand and use code is fundamental to creating and integrating those content formats, and today’s students will be responsible for doing so.
In the future, innovation will be scripted in code.
Integrating computer science into standard curricula must become central to any discussion around 21st century education, but particularly in the U.S., where there is every resource to improve course criteria. Students should be consistently exposed to computer science programs at a young age, instilling coding proficiency that grows as they do.
Generation Z must be equipped with the knowledge and abilities to compete in the job market, especially as more companies are digitally transforming their businesses. Parents should demand their students are educated with relevant skills for their future endeavors, because a student who knows how to write code will become an employee who is fluent in business and a valuable company asset. English may be the world’s spoken business language, but code is where business innovations are truly born.