Prime Minister Tony Abbott Thinks Teaching Coding To Kids Means Sending Them To Work At Age 11

Prime Minister Tony Abbott Thinks Teaching Coding To Kids Means Sending Them To Work At Age 11
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There’s a shortage of skilled developers in Australia. But when Prime Minister Tony Abbott was asked in Parliament yesterday if the government would commit to teaching coding at primary level, his response was nonsensical and unhelpful.

Picture: Getty Images/Stefan Postles

Asked by opposition leader Bill Shorten if the government would commit to teaching coding at primary level, Abbott responded:

Let’s just understand exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has asked. He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously? Seriously?

Whatever your politics, Abbott’s stance completely lacks logic. As Leon Sterling pointed out the other day,

Of course, not everyone taught coding will become a coder or have a career in information technology. Art is taught in schools with no expectation that the students should become artists.

Nor, we might add, does learning a skill in primary school mean you immediately go to work. When the debate is at this level, it’s hard to feel confident about Australia embracing technology’s potential.

UPDATE: Tony Abbott Is Still Dodging Questions About Teaching Coding To Everyone


  • Wait…
    If he wants to raise the retirement age to 70, what’s wrong with people entering the workplace at age 11?

    • Those pesky people over at the UN and morals. If we got rid of both of them, there wouldn’t be a problem!

      The day a prime minister can’t send an 11 year old off to work a job (in a try before you buy kind of way, mind you), is a cold day in hell indeed.

  • Coding, like art, maths, science and literature introduce ways of thinking. Coding exposes chln to an important way of thinking that has direct relevance to the adult world.

  • Well enjoy your wet-string NBN people, this is the calibre of the people leading our country…

    To quote Homer Simpson’s brain…That’s it, I’m outta here…

  • How this guy became a Rhodes Scholar is beyond me, he has no real world communication skills or common sense for that matter.

    • quite easily actually, ive met many many many smart and intelligent people who no idea abour how to communitcate with the rest of us and little to no common sense. the best thing i can say is that there are alot of Sheldon Coopers out there

  • Nothing to see here. It’s just another Silly Thing coming out of Tony’s mouth. It’s par for the course. Mind you, he’s not the only member to say stupid stuff – it’s unfortunately extremely common. I wonder, though – is it just our pollies who act like idiots or are all countries like this?

    • What I want to know is what this is doing in the “developer” tag.
      It’s clearly entertainment/politics.

  • We had some coding classes back in primary school. We learned Logo (with the little turtle that drew pictures) and it was a ton of fun. We even had the actual turtle robot that plugged in via serial and wheeled around on the floor, drawing with a pen attached at the bottom. That was one of my best memories from primary school, and I would love for schools to start teaching it again (if they’re not already).

    I say this, because I want to create a team of super-human 11 year olds to develop the next Candy Crush. We will eliminate the UN and other human rights groups, devour morals and soon we shall rule the earth and sue everyone who attempts to use our name.

    *maniacal laughter*

    (But seriously, Tony Abbott is an idiot, and I think everyone should learn to code. Making games = fun!)

    • it’s not just about making games.
      Anyone who knows how to code is probably far better with Excel than most who can’t, and spreadsheets are useful in almost every job.
      Or just the fact that learning to code means you understand computers a bit better.

      • It also means that you learn basic problem solving, sequencing, and algebra (via variables, loops etc.), all of which are helpful for literacy and mathematics and general life.

      • Making games is a surefire way to get kids engaged, as “Hello World” just doesn’t cut it for most. For a while, the school where I worked taught GameMaker (with an introduction to scripting) and kids loved it because it was colourful and easy to make a game.

        I also just remembered that they teach HTML, but via Dreamweaver’s Design mode. Getting closer though!

    • Yeah – we used the turtle drawing programme thingy on the BBC Micros in the high school computer lab. It’s pretty much the only memory I have of using a computer during my school years.

      • We had the BBC micros as well. I loved ’em because they ran a form of BASIC. They were networked together and had a “home screen” with “Welcome to [school name]” and a message of the day. By Ctrl+Break-ing the home screen, I could modify the BASIC code and run it again. Teachers were confused as to why “Mr. Smith Smells” was showing up on the screens once in a while.

        A reboot returned it to normal, though, so it was more for shits and giggles for the next person who used the machine

    • We had one BBC micro for our school, so it was a bit harder to get a programming class. But high school had a lab of Microbees, and it was a compulsory unit in Year 8. It was fun! And no different from having to do science. You might not be the best at it, but the reward when the program works (like a science experiment) made it worthwhile. Why did this country go backwards since the mid 80s??

  • Well if he’s going to make it so that university courses are unattainable by the poor anyway, we might as well teach software dev to primary and secondary students.

    Everyone knows that where you learned to code isn’t as important as what you know how to code. Some university courses only ever teach one language, so I guess the industry isn’t meant to have developers who code in any other languages? Teaching the fundamentals so you can learn whatever language you want to, wherever you want to, is better than trying to shackle the process to university with all of the bullshit trappings of academia that get in the way of actual learning.

    • Well if he’s going to make it so that university courses are unattainable by the poor anyway

      No, the education minister is involved and he’s only trying to deregulate universities. It’s the universities that could potential drive the poor out if the regulation goes though, not Abbott nor his ministers.

      The claims that universities will be unaccessible is an simplification from the Greens (they started this rhetoric): they present such views (at least from the faction within that’s aligned to Sarah Hanson-Young) because that is the pinnacle of their abilities.

      • That is a lame excuse, oh it isn’t the Government’s fault that they let the University (i.e. the business) charge heaps more for courses, and make education unaffordable, it is the University’s fault, nothing to do with Government.

        Government’s role is precisely to stop business over-reaching and harming the populous in their focus on maximising profits/reducing costs, Business’ role is to return the maximum to their ‘shareholders’.

        A Business will nearly always do what is in their best interest, not necessarily what is best for the country or its people. A government ‘regulates’ business to stop it going too far, without choking it so much that it can’t be successful. If a government allows a business leeway, they will take it, that isn’t the “fault” of the company, it is what they do.

        Governments are meant to act as a buffer against that.

        • That is a lame excuse,

          No, a statement of the facts and a presentation of the big picture. Seeing the government as a centralised point is myopic and does not cover all the factors at play.

          If the universities over charge, that is a consequence they should be made to face. Especially the one where former academics and even students may work towards forming a new university, taking on students turned away because existing universities have the gall (if deregulation happens) to price themselves out of education sector.

          And if government is really about acting like a buffer then we are truly screwed as both sides couldn’t give anyone a soft landing in a pillow factory.

          • Not actually worth letting happen to be able to wag the finger at the offending institutions when it’s the public (and possibly the universities themselves) who suffer for it.

            There’s a reason the tale of the scorpion and the frog is so enduring today, and if you need government to KEEP the frog from taking the scorpion across the river, then that’s probably for the best for everyone.

          • We’ll have to agree to disagree. But I can tell you one thing, regulation sometimes does more harm than good.

            And sometimes a bit of deregulation serves as a wakeup call to a sleeping sector.

            But back to the point in question, let’s make one thing clear. The government is only seeking to deregulate universities. One can only hold the government accountable for fee rises if the government is regulating the fees.

            If the deregulation does pass and fees go up, you can only at best say the government was the catalyst. Deregulation means detachment thus any subsequent fee rises will be accountable to the universities in question and are the ones that should face accountability.

            And given that neither side could organise an explosion in a nitro factory I wouldn’t trust them with regulation either.

      • Yes, because de-regulation is well known for its stellar impact on price and service and the public good in any industry in which it occurs.

        I’ve also got a bridge to sell you.

        • Yes, because de-regulation is well known for its stellar impact on price and service in any industry in which it occurs.

          Depends on the people in the deregulated environment. If they abuse it, then I say let them fall hard on their consequences.

          I’ve also got a bridge to sell you.

          You’re better than that so there is no need for such comments.

          • See above: It’s not the industry which will fall hard on their consequences.

            If it was just some stupid business doing themselves out of business, I wouldn’t give a shit. But you know tertiary education plays a much larger role than that in society.

  • I’m expecting also from Tony Abbott:
    “I apologise for my statement. I now realise that children should learn to work as young as eleven, and it could be a very useful too for young girls to learn programming skills in order to learn how to iron and cook more efficiently.”

  • It is as nuts as saying teching children to read in Kindy means you want to put them to work as editors at age six. It just makes no sense.

    • I was just about to make a similar comment. It involved primary school children, mathematics, and the Federal budget.

      I don’t think I’ll go there.

  • It’s ridiculous, but occasionally i see programs aimed at teaching coding ideas to 6 years olds and wonder if we should let them have childhoods. There’s maybe a balance between necessary preparation and having childhood be subservient to the needs of industry. If you’re sitting down a group of 8 years olds and talking to them about threading, serialization, fourth normal form, the app economy etc, you may have gone too far.
    To his mind, programming may hard enough that it by definition work, and inappropriate in the same sense that teaching an 8 year old how to spot weld in school would cross some kind of line.

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