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Lawmakers will again consider whether to count coding as a foreign language

If asked to identify the core curriculum of their high school years, most college graduates would invariably list history, English, mathematics, science and, of course, foreign language. Indeed, the reality has long been that most colleges and universities either here in Florida or across the U.S. condition admission upon completion of some coursework in Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Russian or another foreign language.

Interestingly enough, some lawmakers are now looking to take a decidedly more 21st century approach to the foreign language component in the state's high schools, but not through expanded course offerings for more languages. Rather, they are looking to make computer coding a foreign language.

Senate Bill 104, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), and its bipartisan companion, House Bill 265, sponsored by Reps. Patricia Williams (D-Lauderdale) and Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City), would allow students who complete two credits of computer coding, which is already provided to public school students, and earn an industry-related certification to count this work toward two foreign language credits starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

"This is the future," said Brandes. "Employers are valuing the skill of coding, and we should ensure that the education market is geared toward what employers want."

While the bill stops short of mandating coding courses for students, it would nevertheless require all public colleges and universities to start counting them toward their foreign language requirements if passed. However, private higher education institutions in Florida, as well as any other out-of-state institution -- either public or private -- wouldn't be subject to this requirement.

It's for this reason that many are speaking out against the measure, fearing its passage would result in many Sunshine State students being summarily rejected from renowned academic institutions. There are also concerns that it would put students in school districts with fewer resources at a distinct disadvantage as only one path, not both, could be emphasized.

It remains to be seen whether this measure, which has the backing of such powerful entities as Disney and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, will gain the necessary legislative traction.

It's worth noting that when the identical bill was introduced last year, the first-of-its-kind in the nation, it easily passed the Senate, but was simply never put up for a vote in the House. This would seem to suggest that opposition to the measure mis perhaps not as strong as believed and that the chances of Florida's next generation of high school students becoming fluent in coding are relatively good.

What are your thoughts on this bill?

If you are a parent or teacher with questions or concerns relating to an education law matter, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and pursue solutions.

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