Coding for what?

Schools are now forcing young children to learn code, or software algorithms. The ostensible reason: to prepare students for an increasingly technology-driven economy. Oh, and to train kindergartners for college. Yet, despite billions spent on computers and teacher training in technology, student achievement in math and science has remained flat.

That’s the finding of the OECD, as detailed in a recent report. Among other things:

The report found that the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in digital reading was very similar to the differences in performance in the traditional PISA reading test, despite the vast majority of students using computers whatever their background. This suggests that to reduce inequalities in digital skills, countries need to improve equity in education first.

Note that last sentence. Education does not mitigate poverty. It is the other way around.

One of the selling points of the original No Child Left Behind law was to help economically deprived students learn. The hope was to close the achievement gap between rich and poor. It didn’t work, after all these contentious years of trying.

Back to Finland, the Scandinavian country understood that learning is adversely impacted by poverty. So Finland established “wrap around” schools that address all students’ needs, including economic security.

While I have no problem with exposing young minds to the wonders of technology, including the writing of simple code, we should not be deceived by promises of higher educational achievement or college-readiness.

Learning begins with the individual child. And children stuck in poverty cannot properly learn, whether it’s code or common sense.