I was having a conversation with a friend’s father about the state of educational policy in school today with common core standards, college and career ready initiatives and so forth. We started to discuss his experiences taking vocational courses throughout his high school career as well as other courses. I was amazed to the extent of classes and courses he had the options of taking, and this realization triggered a couple thoughts.
I began to reflect upon some of my experiences as a student and I began to focus on the time I spent studying foreign languages. I received 2 years of Spanish instruction in middle school, 3 years of Latin instruction in high school, and then another 2 semesters of Spanish in college. Even now, I would describe myself as only being able to comprehend very basic Spanish, and my ability to speak is less than basic.
I asked myself this question. Would I have been better off now if I would have received 3 years of a computer programming language like C++ in high school rather than my required foreign language courses?
So, I decided to do a little digging into the effects of both foreign language and computer programming on student learning.
After looking through a lot of literature and research on the foreign language education, it is very difficult to deny the many benefits of learning a foreign language for students.
Some of benefits of foreign language instruction and bilingualism are:
One aspect of language instruction that kept show up is that the positive effects of foreign language instruction are maximized by providing younger students with exposure and instruction of the languages in earlier grades.
Likewise, there are numerous benefits to exposing students to computer programming or coding.
Some of the benefits of computer programming instruction are:
After looking at all of these positive benefits of both foreign language and computer programming, I have come to a couple recommendations and suggestions.
We should begin foreign language instruction in our schools at a far younger age and grade level. There are so many benefits to becoming bi-lingual and we should push to maximize these benefits as much as possible. Numerous options of foreign language courses should be promoted and available for students starting in kindergarten and then continuing through middle school.
Similarly, we should promote basic computer programming using programs like Tinker, codecademy, code.org and many others to begin the benefits of this type of instruction as well. Why not start with developmentally appropriate programs as early as possible?
Finally, if students have been exposed to both of these topics for throughout their educational careers k-8, then, they should be allowed to choose their course of study. If they choose to substitute a computer programming language for a foreign language, then so be it. Students who have interest and passion for a topic will be much more inclined to study and will learn better.
I am a big believer in students having as much choice as possible in the path of their own learning.
Why should we force students to take classes they have limited to no interest in, even after being exposed to the subject and having previous experiences?
What do you think?