Skills sharing

Inspiring young students to discover the joy of coding

Alex McHugh teaching a coding class

10 June 2020

As a self-taught coder, Alex McHugh has always been passionate about learning. So when an opportunity to teach primary school kids how to code came up she jumped at the chance.

Alex works in the digital transformation and data division at Macquarie Group in Sydney and has been involved in an employee network group’s Coding at Schools program since it started in 2018.

In 2019, Macquarie volunteers introduced the program to around 100 primary school students.

“I really believe in Socrates’ quote, ‘Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel,’” Alex says. “For me, the Coding at Schools program is a fantastic opportunity to share a love of learning with an innately curious audience.” 

Social enterprise partner Code Like A Girl developed the four-week interactive curriculum. Volunteers from Macquarie run the program multiple times a year in Australian primary schools. They prepare and teach one class per week and can volunteer to help as many weeks as they like. 

“We target schools that do not yet offer coding to their students, which means the program can give 8 to 12 year-old boys and girls access to coding much earlier than they would otherwise. And it really illustrates to kids how learning valuable skills can also be incredibly exciting and fun,” says Alex. 

In a rapidly advancing technological world, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills are highly valued and sought-after. So Coding at Schools aims to spark an interest in coding and encourage more students to choose STEM subjects in high school which could eventually lead to a career in IT.

But learning to code also offers something more than technical skills, according to Alex.

“For me the deeper benefit of learning how to code is the skill of thinking differently – and this is invaluable regardless of the profession or path you choose. 

“It’s really exciting to see how the classes inspire a joy of coding in students and that they want to continue exploring the subject.”