By Sylvie Laffarge, Director, Philanthropies Europe, Microsoft
Significant progress has been made when it comes to injecting computer science education into more curricula across Europe. But we can’t slow down. Europe Code Week reminds us that the power to drive change resides within us all. This year we are reinforcing our commitment through 21 coding events in 16 markets across the region to help young Europeans discover their digital potential.
Digital literacy is essential for anyone to thrive in the 21st century digital economy and for Europe to realize its Digital Single Market vision.
And yet, no government can close Europe’s digital skills gap on its own. In addition to advocating for curricula reform, we must not lose sight of the tangible ways we can help young people to build the skills required for a more digital savvy environment. Computer Science education provides one key pathway to addressing this skills gap as it helps young people to learn computational-thinking and problem-solving skills that are critical for their future.
That’s why we need to move quickly toward a holistic approach encompassing governments, industry leaders and educators to introduce kids to a more digital way of thinking across the region. We need inclusive education which helps ensure that no-one gets left behind. And we need fun, immersive learning experiences which will spark an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.
This Europe Code Week, we focus on short-term and long-term ways to prepare current and future generations for our modern, digital workforce; and ultimately nurture a passion for STEM education among young Europeans.
First, we need to empower teachers and use new technologies to create exciting, practical, hands-on experiences which ignite greater interest in computer science from an early age.
We know that one of the things young people love about computer science is the creative possibilities it offers. Learning the basics of coding opens up opportunities to invent and build new things. Introducing technologies such as Minecraft into classrooms helps young people to create and explore a virtual world, teaching digital citizenship, empathy, social skills and even improving their literacy. Tools like Kodu let kids create games on the PC and XBox via a simple visual programming language. Hardware like the BBC micro:bit gives school kids a small, code-able device that can be programmed to light up using a series of tiny LEDs.
All teachers need to feel comfortable and supported in bringing technology into their classrooms to make learning more engaging and versatile. Our Microsoft Imagine Academy helps teachers and students build technology skills and provides industry-recognized certifications. And the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program recognizes global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes.
Longer-term, we need to open up more opportunities to teach coding and computer science skills both inside and outside the classroom, while continually pushing for change. By learning computer science as a foundational subject in school, we’re equipping the next generation with the computational-thinking and problem-solving skills that are required for today’s digital world. That is why governments need to speed up reforms, so that all European countries integrate computer science education into their curriculum.
As coding and computer science become fully integrated into curricula across Europe, the private sector and NGOs have a critical role to play in bridging the digital skills gap. At Microsoft, through our partnership with CoderDojo, we’re aiming to help as many young Europeans as possible discover their digital potential and create their own opportunities for success through computer science. We’re also working with NGOs across the region, such as Junior Achievement in Ireland, CodeUur in the Netherlands, Kodcentrum in Sweden and Skool in Hungary, to get more people coding. This Europe Code Week, we have worked with CodeUur to rally 500 volunteers in 500 schools to get more than 10,000 Dutch school children coding at once. It is exciting opportunities like this which will get more young minds switched on to computer science.
The power for change is within our reach. Every coding class, every world record broken, every new learning experience will help more young Europeans to improve their digital literacy – which will benefit us all.
Click on the map below to see the 21 events we’re supporting across the region during Europe Code Week
Tags: Code week, Code Week EU, CoderDojo, Coding, Computer science, Education, Hungary, Ireland, Junior Achievement, Kodu, micro bit, micro:bit, MIE Expert, Minecraft, Netherlands, NGO, NGOs, STEM, Sweden, Youth