Berners-Lee calls for computer science education at a younger age

Monday, 28 January 2013 12:25 GMT By Dave Cook

Accredited with creating the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee Knows a thing or two about the possibilities of computer coding. In a new new interview, Berners-Lee has called for an increase in computer science education at a younger age, to help children develop greater understanding of what makes computers tick, and how to code new applications and even games themselves.

Speaking in a video interview with World Economic Forum, Berners-Lee cautioned that while millions are using computer programs and using services like Twitter and Facebook, a low percentage of those users actually know how to code, or to understand why these tools and services work the way they do.

“A quarter of the planet uses the web,” he cautioned, “then within this quarter of people who may tweet and use social networks and so on, there’s a fairly small set of people who code. But when you look at those people, they have the ability to make a computer do whatever they can imagine.

“I think a lot of folks growing up today, when they open a computer, it’s like opening a refrigerator. It’s an appliance, it’s white goods, there’s some stuff in it, if it needs more in it you stock it, you put more music in it, you play it. And If it breaks it’s: ‘Mom, can I have a new one’.”

“It’s not actually ‘what went wrong there? Let me go in there, lets look at the log files, what crashed, why didn’t it have the right permissions, lets see if we can re-write that script so that it works in the new version of the operating system.’”

Berners-Lee also discussed the nature of IT education in schools, and criticised teaching bodies for giving children classes on how to use Microsoft Word, instead of teaching them how to get the most of of computers technically, or giving them the knowledge to code themselves.

He added, “I think we have to be careful about prejudging what’s good and what’s bad in certain things. But learning to understand a computer, learning actually how a computer ticks and being able to program it is in fact a high idea.

“It’s very important in education with this computer science, which is understanding the philosophy of computer and the mathematics of computing, and learning to really build stuff, it’s very different from the IT class, and I think making that distinction very clear and maybe early on in schools is very important.”

What do you think? Are kids now becoming so naturally proficient at using computers that basic IT courses are wasted? Should coding be taught in schools at a deeper level? Let us know below.

Thanks to Develop for the transcription.