I can remember when I was a kid my parents always talking about learning a second language and that Japanese seemed to be the one that everyone thought would be the most valuable. The importance of a second language was certainly a prevailing theme at the time and the belief that it would give you access to new and exciting opportunities and experiences.
It has struck me for a while now that by far the most important second language of the 21st century is not spoken – it is coding. What other language can be used in every corner of the world and have a much faster growing economy than any country? Even more important than this is that it can empower kids to not just imagine things but to actually create them.
I was reminded about this again last week at the Founders Forum. One of the sessions involved us divided into groups and tasked with producing an idea for a video to promote an initiative in the UK called Code Club whose mission is to encourage more kids to learn to code and, at the same time, make it more fun and cool. Code Club will provide an after school curriculum to 10-11 year olds and aims to persuade enough parents, schools and volunteer teachers to be in 25% of primary schools by 2014.
I think this is a fantastic initiative and got the sense that the influential crowd at the Founders Forum felt the same way. The best creative idea was used and a video was produced all on the same day – the end result is great and very funny.
I live in New York and have seen similar initiatives launched here with a good example being the Academy for Software Engineering, a new high school that was supported by Fred Wilson and Michael Bloomberg amongst others.
As a founder and investor in tech companies, and therefore someone who every day sees both the opportunities across the industry but also the shortage of talent to drive them, I think any country who is able to nurture more software engineering talent will be the ones that really take advantage of this to drive their economies forwards. Like anything with kids, you have to start them early and the only way you’ll do that successfully is by making computers and coding both fun and cool. So I think Code Club is a great initiative and I’m a big supporter.
In a world with so much uncertainty, and with so many industries languishing, technology stands out as a beacon of hope and will be one of the real growth drivers of the recovery. I’m convinced of that.
But it’s not just about a career – young kids don’t even think about that. It’s about inspiring kids and making it fun. Getting kids to understand that they don’t need to use someone else’s software but can instead write their own. That they can not only imagine things but go on to actually build them.
As a parent of two young kids I know which language I’ll be encouraging them to learn!