Coding Will Be Added to B.C.’s School Curriculum Over the Next Three Years

Recognizing that technology is indeed the future, British Columbia is set to introduce computer coding in its school curriculum from kindergarten through to grade 12.

Premier Christy Clark announced the initiative during a two-day summit on technology in Vancouver to address a chronic skills shortage in one of Canada’s most robust industries. B.C.’s tech sector alone employs 86,000 people, which is more than forestry, mining and oil and gas combined.

The first part of the strategy was launched last month – a $100-million venture fund to finance startups. The second part will roll out over the next three years and includes new standards in mathematics and sciences, as well as a new and redesigned “applied design, skills and technologies” (ADST) component that will allow students to learn computational thinking and the various aspects of programming. Students are expected to grasp basic coding by the end of grade 9.

“Providing a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum early in a child’s education is fundamental in advancing Canada’s innovation agenda,” said John Ruffolo, CEO of OMERS Ventures, a leading Canadian venture-capital fund. “Hopefully, the rest of Canada will follow [B.C.’s] lead.”

There are concerns, however, that the move is more media fodder than applicable education, in that issues currently range from inadequate resources to a lack of teacher training.

“There are schools without the equipment to actually be able to execute this,” said Melody Ma, a Vancouver web developer and volunteer lead for Hour of Code and Code Create. “There are communities that only have dial-up (Internet).”

One thing is clear: it’s a fantastic first step towards advancing Canada’s tech ecosystem, and one that’s resoundingly commended despite questions about how exactly it’ll manifest.

“In this great reshuffling of the business world, we need Canada to end up with a good share of the newly created and scaled companies. There is tremendous upside for Canada in making computer literacy part of the core curriculum,” said Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke, whose company is a beacon of Canadian tech success.

“Whoever figures out how to teach computer literacy first will have by far the most prepared work force. It’s hard to overestimate the potential of that.”