I watch with amusement many hopping on board the “learn to code early” bandwagon. Nothing against coding, I myself spent hours writing code on a Commodore 64 and a Sinclair Spectrum. I still miss the exhilaration of overnight coding sessions where we pushed the 8-bit machine to its limits in late 1980s Bombay.
Then why am I against making coding workshops compulsory in schools?
I feel that once you mandate something, the joy of discovering something is gone. What is going to happen is that a large number of teachers (who may not be enthusiastic about programming) will be trained in a hurry and unleashed on kids. It will be just like any other school subject where a set syllabus will be developed and kids will go through it half -heartedly.
Some of most enthusiastic programmers I have met have come to computing trying to solve some other broader problem. They see programming as a tool and are not dogmatic when it comes to programming language or tools.
So what is my solution?
We should encourage hackerspaces where local tech folks, artists, writers and musicians donate some of their time. If a dedicated building is not possible then perhaps a local school can donate some rooms on the weekends. Kids and everyone else in the community who is keen on these things can drop in and learn and teach whatever they are interested in — writing, coding or hardware. Kids must first wander, get curious about the world and when they develop interest in something, they should be able to have access to a space and mentors. In many places in this world, the answers to some of the local problems is not just in code but also in things like designing a better dustbin or how to create a community cleanup group. Code is just a glue. When someone gets fired up to make something better, we should make sure that we have people they can turn to for guidance and suggestions.