Read this before you teach your child to code

Bill Gates started coding at the age of 12. But he did it because he WANTED TO. He became great not because of inherent merits of coding. But because he followed his passion. Want your kid to become the next Bill Gates? Let them follow their passion. Don't turn your kid into someone else's clone.

Bill Gates didn't start coding after his parents saw an ad for night cat senior and enrolled him for a course against his wishes. In fact, coding wasn't a career enhancement scheme when he started. The internet didn't exist, let alone apps or an app ecosystem. He wasn't doing it to become the next great anything. He was doing it because he liked it.

Ask your kid what she likes. Then make it possible for them to pursue it to their and your best ability. The future is going to surprise all of us. Don't make your children jump into a stream because of a marketing campaign or because it's what everyone else is doing. The true champions of tomorrow will emerge from spaces that you probably scorn right now, much as computer nerds were scorned when Bill Gates was your child's age.

The future your kid will face

Engineering colleges mushroomed all over India during the early 2000s because becoming an engineer was considered a ticket to things like "package" and "stability". But some nuance entered the area in the years that followed. Electrical was better than Mechanical. Software had better prospects than others thanks to the IT market and how US corporations were getting Bangalored left right and centre.

Of course, the market for skills was shifting too fast for parents looking for stability to understand. Many got pushed into courses that were already beginning to become obsolete. Now, in the year 2020, India is producing far too many engineers to employ. Why is this important? It's important because the job market isn't made of stone. Prospects are fleeting. Demands shift. Companies pivot and nations change work visa policies.

Faced with this reality, how much sense does it make to teach your children to build apps at the age of 10 (if not earlier)? A skill is obviously always worth picking up. But to give a child a life goal to work towards at an age when she should be learning life itself, is foolhardy.

In five to ten years, apps may not even be a thing. In twenty years, the job market may very well have swung towards social entrepreneurship or community farming initiatives or creative robotics or some other field that we cannot even imagine right now. People who grow up seeking "packages" will be ill-equipped for a world such as that. People who are powered by love and passion will do better. Those who do what they love will swim past the need to retrain themselves repeatedly. Those who are preparing for a static future won't.


I write about contemporary Indian culture. About where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. You can support my work by becoming a paying member here.