Our baby boy Jack has finally started school.
I say finally because, back in those early days of parenting, imagining a time when it would be 2023 and he would be walking, talking and thinking independently seemed a mile off. And that was before COVID added additional years onto all of us.
So, with Jack joining over 320,000 Australians in starting school last week, I’m now having the same ‘it’s so far away it will never happen’ thoughts about the end of his schooling. 2035 is an eternity away – until it’s not….
Recently my wife and I asked Jack if he knew what he wanted to do when he finished school…. “Yep, a footy player” …
Of course, no one would be prouder than me if Jack helped St Kilda win its first AFL Premiership after a (by then) 70-year drought. But it’s also pointless asking a 5-year-old what job they would like to do in 2035, because the job market, and the skills needed, will be incredibly different.
Has there ever been a 10–15-year period where jobs of the future will so radically shift than this coming period? Just look at the explosion of ChatGPT since its launch only months ago for an immediate example of how different so many jobs will be in 2035 thanks to technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning and whatever comes next.
With this as a backdrop, I was surprised to learn from some recent high school graduates that coding, and computer sciences was still considered pretty niche at their school and wasn’t promoted or pushed all that strongly. I soon discovered it wasn’t just this group of kids with that experience, the story was similar with many other graduates I spoke to over the holidays.
Coding at school still falls under a vague and uninspiring umbrella name – STEM (science, tech, engineering, maths) – but I assumed its popularity had grown substantially from when I graduated 20 years ago. Back then computer science was a lunchtime or after-school class taken by a handful of kids.
I’ve seen examples of schools doing amazing work in the computer science fields, and investment in STEM is higher today that it was in the early 2000s. But there is still an enormous amount of work to do to get today’s kids excited and involved in coding on the scale required for where the jobs of the future are heading – and to ensure that these opportunities extend to students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
As Jack starts his schooling life and I think about my aspirations for him, first there are the obvious ones; happy, healthy, socially aware, ready to take on the world etc. But I’d also love him to get into coding.
It’s an incredible career; you are a full-time inventor, problem solver, creator, and world shaper. You can work from anywhere, be well paid, and have a pipeline of stimulating work to last your lifetime. And your fellow coders are some of the smartest people in the world.
Change in the education system moves at glacial speed (what’s with school hours still being from the 1800s?!), but tech is moving like wildfire.
Education policy makers should continue to place critical importance on making coding mainstream in the classroom, so the graduates of tomorrow have every chance of succeeding in an increasingly globalised, tech-led world.