Coding Seekho Duniya Badlo (learn to code and change the world). I am pretty much sure every Indian household is familiar with this advertisement. Thanks to WhiteHatJr my Mom now knows what is the source of our income and what does my younger brother(who is in the final year of Computer Engineering) needs to do in order to secure a job. To give you some context WhiteHatJr is an Indian startup focussed on teaching coding to kids and school students. It became the talk of the town when it aired its ad showing MNCs fighting to hire some 10-year-old kid for his coding skills. Their fictitious student Wolf Gupta also bagged a job with Google with an annual CTC ranging in crores. There are plenty of articles out there bashing WhiteHatJr for its unrealistic misleading advertisements and promoting coding as the ultimate guide to success, the only way to develop cognitive abilities in children. This article is surely not taking this track instead we look at its strong critic i.e a common software engineer.
Be it MPL(Mobile Premier League) showing how a poor parent managed to continue studies of his children by playing games on its mobile platform, we are not new to this culture.
We have a long history of unrealistic advertisements and WhiteHatJr has just made us a part of this nasty ecosystem. Yes, by us I mean software engineers. These advertisements try to capitalize on the insecurities of the masses and at times tap into the customers by showing unrelated emotional content. Be it MPL(Mobile Premier League) showing how a poor parent managed to continue studies of his children by playing games on its mobile platform or Fair and Handsome Cream which showed us how to be confident and bag jobs by becoming a tone fairer, we are not new to this culture. We have seen light-emitting teeth, edible shampoos, and energy drinks that bring even the Everest within our reach. To top it all we have Pan Bahar as it tricked Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan into promoting an all-natural no tobacco product. Well, the list goes on so why is this fuss around WhiteHatJr?
Every JEE aspirant was tricked into believing that a package of crores of rupees is waiting for you outside the halls of this classroom
To some extent, this is because WhiteHatJr has brought things that were confined to JEE or CET classes in mainstream advertisements. From the four walls of a private coaching classroom, it has now been liberated into every household. Every JEE aspirant was tricked into believing that a package of crores of rupees is waiting for you outside the halls of this classroom. And they in turn toiled day and night to turn their dreams into reality just to realize the truth of hollow claims. So when we look at WhitHatJr advertisements it is nothing but a déjà vu with some extra creative elements in it. Can we withstand a 5-year-old kid and his supposedly not so educated parent being subjected to such obnoxious claims and tricked into buying a product? Surely not. This is just one aspect of the problem which is common with any hypothetical advertisement; the second aspect has to do with the software engineers and the hype around coding.
Yes, coding is an important skill but if a 10-year-old can get a job what about lakhs of Computer Engineers in India?
This brings us to another question why is the software fraternity, in particular, is concerned about this whole arrangement? Is coding not an important skill, will it ruin your childhood or is it about WhiteHatJr providing suboptimal services as we can see in some of the videos that were taken down recently? Yes, coding is an important skill but if a 10-year-old can get a job what about lakhs of Computer Engineers in India who find it hard to break into a first real IT job. IT jobs are surely highly paid as compared to their other engineering counterparts but at the same time, we cannot deny the harsh truth that 80% of the engineering graduates are either jobless or land in seemingly unrelated jobs. Yes, I know WhiteHatJr talked less about job seekers and more about turning your child into job creators like our Satya Bhau.
Are Software Engineers happy with their own job?
If we could join a drawing class, skating class, why not a coding class?
Let us leave behind the job market and understand if it is about destroying childhood. This brings us to a question that is very close to my heart and I feel is at the back of our minds when we look at this entire subject, are Software Engineers happy with their own job? Well, certainly not. I sound damn confident, right? Some of you might have slowly judged me as one who is removing his own corporate frustration here. It is perfectly fine even if you thought so :) but this is surely not about me it’s about the perception in general. They say you are not a software engineer if you have not dreamt about starting your own tea stall at some point in your career. Although ours is a high paying job it comes with its own problems. The corporate job comes at a cost of work-life balance, deadlines, pressure, politics, and all-time insecurity. Some people are better at handling these things than others but let’s keep aside these outliers for some time. IT is a constant mental game, while terms like coding, debugging, refactoring may sound interesting but can only be felt by a person who sacrifices a month for fixing a single deadliest bug that curses him day and night. If non-living things can haunt us imagine how our living managers would act when they realize we are working on a single bug for a month. There is no doubt that software and its development can be quite interesting but there are these factors that make the life of software engineers miserable. So again, can we withstand a 5-year-old being subjected to such brutality, or are we concerned about what happens when he turns elder and is subjected to this? I feel we are taking this personally and back of the mind making this wrong comparison. Technically a five-year-old cannot be subjected to corporate brutality. Eventually, I suppose we are wrong here, childhood cannot be compromised this easily. We should let the child learn this subject like any other subject. Should we let him join an external coaching class is debatable but if we could join a drawing class, skating class, why not a coding class?
At the same time, I don’t expect Ph.D. scholars or software engineers teaching coding to school students who might even not understand the mentality of a child.
This brings us to the last question about the suboptimal services provided by WHJ. I am not the right person to comment on these however let me quickly place a couple of points. Given that it is a startup trying to capture a market I do not expect their system to be foolproof. At the same time, I don’t expect Ph.D. scholars or software engineers teaching coding to school students who might even not understand the mentality of a child. So it has to be done by a teacher who understands both children and coding to some extent and not proficient in either of these. If parents are pumping in money then it is their right to expect the best teacher but I strongly disregard the circulated video making fun of the teacher by asking him basic coding questions which might be good from an interview perspective but of no use to children who are just learning ABC of coding. Their version of ABC is very different than what we as software engineers feel.
Coding is just another skill that children can embrace from the very beginning; give it a try and continue if they like.
That brings us to the end of this long article. I feel coding is just another skill that children can embrace from the very beginning; give it a try and continue if they like. However, parents should be cautious about misleading advertisements. These advertisements and the skill acquiring process itself can impact their children in a negative way. Overall this ecosystem will become more mature over time there will be more players joining WHJ; hopefully, we will have fewer complaints then.
Let me know in the comments which points do you feel are relevant, what did I miss or was biased towards?