As computer coding has become an increasingly sought-after skill, more K-12 schools are working it into their curriculums. Some states have considered allowing students to forgo foreign language for coding classes, despite opposition from educators.
There's a debate over whether it's appropriate to teach coding in elementary schools, with fierce opinions on each side. When it comes to allowing coding to fill foreign language requirements, though, most educators agree: Coding should be added to curriculums, but not at the expense of foreign language classes.
The idea is that computer programming is a language, allowing people to communicate with machines and programs. It's the language of the 21st century and more valuable than a natural language, some proponents argue. The computer science field is growing faster than schools can keep up because of budget constraints and a lack of skills training for teachers.
According to the 2016 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index, computer science jobs have helped boost wages in the U.S., and computer-related jobs hold the top seven positions inSTEM fields for highest number of workers.
Foreign language interest, on the other hand, is declining for the first time since 1995. The number of higher education language enrollments declined between 2009 and 2013 by more than 111,000 spots, according to the Modern Language Association of America.
"I think the opportunity to give people a choice [is important]," says Florida state Sen. Jeremy Ring, who introduced a bill last year that would allow Florida students to choose between foreign language and coding classes for the purpose of university admissions requirements. "I think if you're just going to give two years [of language] in high school, you might as well do computer coding, because I think it'll take them further than two years of foreign language will."
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