Everyday that we use our cellphones, laptop computers and tablets we should ask ourselves how every African child is preparing for a future driven by these technologies. In this increasingly global and more technology driven society it is imperative that African students in schools, Universities and Colleges adjust their approach to education. The current primary, secondary and higher education that most African students are currently exposed to does not serve us well. How are our education systems incorporating the cellphone, the laptop and the tablet in and out of the classroom? While it is useful to learn the things of yesteryear I believe that in this century every provider of education in Africa must shift their focus. Africans are still consumers and not developers in the space of computer technology. However, if want a future better than our past we must embrace computer technology in education.
One cannot discuss the global economy without mentioning China. In fact a lot of Africans are doing business in China. Now that everyone is doing business with China, it is not surprising that Mandarin is gaining popularity as a the foreign language of choice. At first glance it seems obvious as the logical second language of the world. English of course continues to dominate in most global business transactions even in China.
However, I believe that there is a new foreign language that all African students, entrepreneurs and global citizens must embrace; computer programming language. Technology is the language without geographical boundaries. I believe that all students should be learning programming languages just the same way they learn English, Spanish, French and Mandarin. Will the foreign language requirements of the last century be as useful in this century? No. In fact if I was a parent I would push programming language over any of the foreign languages and I know you must be asking yourself “Why?”
Everyday many new applications (Apps) are created that make our lives easier. For example Paul Pauca, a Professor from Wake Forest University worked with his students to create an app for iPhone and iPad that will help his son to communicate as he suffers from a rare genetic disorder that delays development including his speech. In the future we can expect Apps that will translate foreign languages like Spanish, French and Mandarin. So why should your children spend their good years learning how to speak the language when the App will do it for them? The power of language now lies in programming language because when you understand it you can then create the App. The masters of the future are those who will create the Apps that can translate all the languages that will merge the global economy.
At this point I would urge students in school right now whether primary, high school, college or graduate school to consider learning a computer programming language as their foreign language requirement. I would recommend to headmasters, teachers and higher education administrators that computer programming be taught with the same emphasis as English and Mathematics. The jobs of the future are technology driven and behind every new technology is a computer program. As Africa prepares for high speed Internet access, it will become increasingly important to understand and be able to navigate different technologies. Every field one can think of leverages some kind of computer technology, the mechanic, nurse, teacher, professor all use at least one App everyday to make their work easier. Looking into the future, I bet that programming languages will be the one unifying force behind the global economy. So as students continue their studies I believe they should ponder how they can better prepare themselves for the future. The future of business in Africa belongs to those who will maximize and leverage computer technology in the coming years and can tailor it to the needs of the masses. If our future is to be better than our past then we must become developers and not just consumers of other people’s computer technologies.