The Canadian economy exists on two key tenants — resource extraction and manufacturing. But both are in trouble.
Given most resource extraction in the country is unsustainable, particularly in the face of climate change, and manufacturing continues to be exported to other countries through globalization, where does the future of a sustainable Canadian economy live?
This type of movement is great, but we need to start equipping our young people even earlier. As our world becomes increasingly driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and computers, we need to give our students the tools to understand the world they will live in from as young as five. Knowing how computers work is a vital step in moving our population from consumers to creators in the future knowledge economy. As it stands right now, Ontario schools aren’t cutting it.
In 2014 the United Kingdom implemented a coding curriculum that affects all students from as young as Kindergarten and makes an understanding of computer science a mandatory part of school curriculum for the length of a student’s public school education.
In British Columbia, a similar program rolled out in 2016. Unfortunately no where else in Canada has taken such progressive steps forward.
In Lindsay, working from the Ontario curriculum requirements, we currently offer computer science in Grade 11 and 12 at I.E Weldon. LCVI offers an “Introduction to Computer Science” in Grade 10 and a general “Exploring Technologies” in Grade 9. All of these courses are optional for a student and while they are great starts, there is no reason that this type of learning shouldn’t be woven into the curriculum from Kindergarten on.
Computer science isn’t just hard coding, it’s understanding the why and how of computers work that provide students with the ability to function in a world completely dominated by online algorithms and decision making. We need our students to speak the lingo of technology.
From a ‘quality of life’ standpoint, we increase our ability to function in every aspect of life as we rely on devices and technology for everything from communications to shopping to security.
From an economics standpoint, as we move to a global economy, borders for work don’t matter nearly as much as they use to. Our education system is not just competing provincially for jobs, but globally. We need to prepare our population to function as well in Kawartha Lakes as they do in Tokyo, Riyadh and London.
As Ontario makes progressive and necessary steps around health education in Ontario, it is my hope that we can see the value in replicating the moves B.C and the UK have done in recent years.
The future Canadian economy will be driven by innovators and those who understand their place and technological innovation in the West have the opportunity to either drive income inequality to new heights (as AI moves jobs away from the general population) or can be the great equalizer as we develop tech that is inclusive and wide reaching for everyone.
Regardless of what the future looks like we need to position our graduates to be in the conversation to help shape it with an understanding rooted in an education that deals with the world the way it is now.