Italian, Japanese, Icelandic – and HTML?

In my home state of New Mexico, a state senator has introduced a bill which would permit computer programming to be considered as a foreign language in state schools. Candelaria’s bill would allow programming languages, such as JavaScript and HTML, to satisfy the Public Education Department’s foreign language requirements. The bill would not mandate that the programming languages be taught, and each school district could continue to decide which foreign language classes to provide.

Currently, high school students must complete at least 1 year of a foreign language. Senator Jacob Candelaria said Monday that the bill could help students to develop an important and potentially lucrative skill.

It seems that New Mexico is not alone – in Kentucky’s state legislature there is a similar measure pending. The US government is one step ahead, with legislation pending that would provide schools with incentives to teach programming languages to students from the age of 5 years old.

Marty Esquivel, the School Board President in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, is not in favour of the bill, as he feels learning a traditional foreign language is more important, and doubts whether universities will accept “HTML language” as am alternative to their standard foreign language entrance requirements.

Understanding the basics of HTML and the internet is certainly important for today’s students, however should it really supplant actual foreign languages like Spanish and French? I completely agree that HTML is like any other language in that there are rules to follow, and the “words” have to fit together a certain way, so learning code will help students to develop the same cognitive skills as learning Spanish – but learning to communicate with people from other cultures is also vital for today’s students. I would advocate keeping the traditional foreign language requirement, as well as introducing an IT literacy course, which would teach the basics of HTML as well as understanding more about the structure of the internet and the pages we see.

Further information is available from the Albuquerque Journal‘s website.

In the UK, plans to teach computer code to primary and secondary students have developed further. From September of this year, it will be mandatory for all students aged between 5 and 16 to learn programming skills. Find out more about this on the Telegraph website.