Lost Generation, by Alain Jeannet, L’Hebdo Magazine
L’Hebdo reports on the lack of computational, information technology and innovation education targeted at young people in Switzerland. The following is the English transcript:
It is paradoxical and alarming: Switzerland is leading in most rankings of innovation and it aims to position itself as the European Silicon Valley. Yet in terms of computer education, she is close to the rear in both elementary and secondary education. The vast majority of graduates, including those who take a science course, entering university or high school graduate without ever having learnt basic programming. The Swiss school system, particularly in western Switzerland continues to generate digital illiterate generations.
“It’s a catastrophe,” warns the Fribourg professor Philippe Cudré-Mauroux. The new president of EPFL, Martin Vetterli, says the same thing. As National Councillor, Fathi Derder, has filed a motion requesting the Federal Council to encourage the cantons to develop computer education from the primary.
Why so late? First, because there is huge misunderstanding about computers and associated technologies. The French-speaking classes have long been equipped with computers and other digital media. But computer science, precisely, should not be equated with the use of tools such as Microsoft Office. To juggle with an Excel spreadsheet or to master PowerPoint is useful. And to use with ease applications on smartphones is also useful. But coding and a true understanding of these new languages, is something else.
The challenge is always, one of removing other subjects and activities to allow for teaching computational sciences. Add to this the shortage of school teachers that can teach computation science and the situation is clearly challenging.
The choice is simple: do Switzerland and Europe in general wish to position themselves as passive consumers of the digital revolution? Or do they want to be among those who master digital technologies and drive innovation in these areas? One can certainly let Californians Apple and Google, the Korean Samsung and the new Chinese IT champions like Huawei dominate Information Technology innovation and accept to be colonized by America and Asia. One can also try to take our digital destiny in hand (read To catch up with the United States, European universities need a shock).
In the area of education, some European countries seem to have woken up. In France, at the beginning of September, the computer will be compulsory from primary school. Telecom tycoon and media entrepreneur Xavier Niel gave a boost to education by creating a revolutionary institution focused on innovation. Moreover, it is often in private institutions that are born the most innovative educational initiatives.
The original article in French can be viewed here.
InnovaKids is directly tackling this need by reaching out to children aged 9 to 16 years and teaching key computational skills and innovation.