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It imperative for students to learn coding: Vivek Varshney

By Saswati Sarkar,

Vivek Varshney, founder of SpeEd Labs, sheds light on the importance of coding as a new-age skill.

We believe that personalized and conceptual learning is the bridge between dreams and capabilities, says Varshney.

Coding, the programming language used to write instructions for computers and devices to perform tasks, is the tech language of the future. In the 21st century, it is considered to be an essential skill for school children. That is why it has been made a part of their curriculum too. In order to make coding easier and more accessible to the millennial students, Hindustan Times launched an initiative last year. Known as Code-a-thon, it kicked off in October 2020. The second edition of this coding Olympiad began from August 31 this year. For this initiative, Hindustan Times has collaborated with SpeEdLabs, an AI-based practice and learning platform. Vivek Varshney, the founder of SpeEd Labs, talks to HT School and sheds light on the importance of coding skill for kids and the significance of initiatives like code-a-thon. 

Education policies including NEP 2020 are focusing on including coding in the school curriculum. What, according to you, led to this trend? 
With an advancement of technology, all job sectors are moving towards automation, making it imperative for students to learn coding. It also leads to improved logical thinking and creativity in children. Across the world, consumption behaviour of all services are going to be personalised and technology-enabled. So, we will need to design and build Apps. Therefore, a basic understanding of coding will be important for all domains. 

In a country like India, where there is a widespread digital divide, how can we ensure that all students get to pick up a new-age skill like coding? 
As a country, India has already crossed 60% internet penetration, while device penetration is also increasing with each passing day. Most of the schools have basic infrastructure for computer literacy. Most importantly, the awareness about technology and its impact is growing across the society. This is why parents and educators should aim a perfect balance of basic coding education alongside the traditional curriculum.  

What is the best way to dispel the notion that coding is tough to master? 
Today, learning to code has become very simple compared to earlier. Nowadays, 10-year-olds are creating coding programs and launching apps on App stores, thanks to block-based coding. It is the perfect platform to introduce a child to coding at a very young age. 
Coding has different levels, but it starts from basic concept design, structural flow of activities and then logical thinking about relating various actions. It is no more difficult for a middle school student to master this skill. 

What was the thought behind joining Hindustan Times for Code-a-thon 2021?  
We believe that personalized and conceptual learning is the bridge between dreams and capabilities. HT Code-a-thon reaches young students across the country with a mission of encouraging students to learn coding and build initial interest at the right age. This is a powerful mission, and SpeedLabs is proud to be a partner in this endeavour. We believe these extra-curricular learnings in this competition will make a strong positive impact on the students.   

Do you think an initiative like HT Code-a-thon is of utter significance in the world we live in? 
Competitions are important for students to enhance their creativity and motivate them to learn further.  In the next decade, India looks to drive global innovation in all sectors. As a country, we want to be the innovation engine for the next two decades. It is, therefore, vital that we build excitement about technology and innovation and start nurturing the students at the right age. Conceptual introduction to coding is the most important building block of this overall mission. We believe that each and every student should get a basic flavor of coding. Code-a-thon is a perfect blend of learning, workshops and participation in a national level competition. 

What initiatives have been taken by SpeEd Labs to spread digital literacy? 
Our co-founders are authors of computer science textbooks which help kids understand ways to be digitally vigilant, create apps and websites. Through free workshops across schools, we have taught lakhs of students to code games and apps. We are aiming to teach coding to 1 million+ students in next 12 months.