Children learn to read and do math from a young age, so why not teach them how to code? The head of Deutsche Telekom has called for computer programming to become a standard part of German schoolchildren's education.
"Programming languages are the basis for everything we do," the chief executive of German telecom giant Deutsche Telekom, Tim Höttges, said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday. "They're at least as important as multiplication, reading and foreign languages."
He made his comments in an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in which he also said Germany's primary and secondary educational systems weren't preparing pupils well enough for careers in the digital age.
In the future, workers will need to have mastered new skills, particularly in software development, but also in thinking outside the box, to compensate for increasing digitalization and automation.
"We've reached a phase in which software is replacing intellectual work," Höttges said. "Yet programming languages like Java, Python or Ruby hardly play a role in schools."
"Machines will take care of the routine work, so schoolchildren must learn to create new things. It's creativity that's called for, not memorization," he added.
An A+ in C++
Teaching kids to code has been a key demand of the technology industry for years. Companies see it as a way to make up for the discrepancy between the number of technology jobs and people with sufficient know-how to fill them.
Governments around the world have already heeded the call.
In the Canadian province of British Columbia, coding classes have been mandated to address a skills shortage in the country's technology sector. Two years ago, the United Kingdom unveiled a new national curriculum that included teaching kids as young as five not only how a computer worked, but also how to write their own software programs.
Estonia, too, is teaching students, young and old, how to code. Tallinn even offers scholarships as an incentive for undergraduates to delve into IT-related disciplines. And the American "Hour of Code" initiative claims to have exposed tens of millions of students the world over to computer programming courses.