Do we need to teach children Quantum Computing?

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Is it important or necessary to teach children the basics of Quantum Computing? As more children are spending time at home and out of the classroom, parents are taking a closer look at their children’s education. Coupled with possible massive changes in the global economy wrought by the coronavirus, parents are understandably nervous about their children’s future.

Schools of the Future

One of the so-called schools of the future that teaches all kinds of subjects including quantum computing is the TKS (The Knowledge Society) which has the following mission: Training the next generation of innovators to impact billions.

Based in the US it has (TKS) programs in the major cities including NY where students are exposed to over forty emerging technologies that are shaping the future. Every student is encouraged to explore several areas of focus, with the aim they can eventually find their true passion. Within their chosen focus areas, students will build projects, write articles, and make content that showcases their research. One of those main areas of interest is Quantum Computing, but also Artificial intelligence and genomics.

“In my regular school we don’t talk about cryptography or quantum computing, it’s not in the curriculum, so for years I had to find time to learn that on my own by myself,”

15-year-old Jack, who is enrolled in the inaugural New York cohort of The Knowledge Society’s programme, reported by the BBC

Learning from Home

Some of the topics available from TKS which teaches children emerging technologies such as Quantum Computing.

Being cooped up at home might become the norm. None of us simply know when restrictions are to be lifted and schools are opened. One thing for sure is that this focus on being home along with parents will ensure energy is diverted into ensuring education is fit for purpose in what might be a very different world when the virus pandemic is over.

When I was at school I learnt the programming language BASIC. Sure the fundamentals haven’t changed today and program flow is still much the same, loops are similar in the form in the Python language even though the syntax is different. I was able to understand the concepts in a variety of languages such as C, C++ and even Julia (see our tutorial on why Julia might be a great language for understanding Quantum Computing), because the fundamental underpinnings are much the same.

But programming a Quantum Computer is totally different and is nothing like BASIC or Python. To properly understand quantum computing, learners must grapple with a more complex level of maths than they might have ordinarily needed to understand classical computing. Qubits do not behave like classical bits. I remember learning how bits are the basis of all computation and perhaps in the future children will have to learn that the qubit is the fundamental basis of computation.

“…perhaps in the future children will have to learn that the qubit is the fundamental basis of computation”

Quantum Zeitgeist on education of CHILDREN

Let’s be honest, parents are acutely aware of the need to get their children ahead. Many parents understand how competitive the world is – why else would private schools exist to educate their offspring. People such as Bill Gates have invested enormously in their own education and Bill Gates advocates education as one of the best investments an individual can make.

With the pace of technology in the last few years we have seen the ability for anyone to use a Quantum Computer (courtesy of IBM and D-wave), buy and trade crypto-currency and allow Machine Learning to identify our content and that is going to mean understanding these increasingly complex systems and technologies. Many parents feel their child’s curriculum is stuck in the 1970s and totally inadequate.

Taking charge of learning

You don’t need to enrol your offspring in an expensive course for them to learn about emerging technologies, Quantum computing or maths. There are now plenty of online resources which can make your life as a parent easier. Firstly there are now many video series being produced and hosted on YouTube (Microsoft Quantum Impact Series) – and there are some online courses aimed at everything from Deep Learning to Quantum Computing.

Learning the basics of Quantum Computing. Should students learn Quantum Computing from an early age?

Where there is a need, there are services aimed at those needs. One, in particular, has caught our eye in the Quantum Computing Education space that can really help students get to grips with the fundamentals of Quantum Computing. That means delving into some of the more mathematical concepts interactively. The content from Brilliant helps to build quantitative skills in maths, science, and computer science with fun and challenging interactive explorations and crucially there is a dedicated programme for learning Quantum Computing (QZ gets commission for purchases).

Coping with the Future of Automation

Clearly, we are seeing some of the beginning effects of automation, we have seen now that many service sector roles are being replaced or radically changed. Think chat-bots, receptionists or even medics who can offer services at scale using technology. Therefore the future requires that students can have defendable skills against the tide of automation.

Even the computer programmer is taunted now and again with the threat of automation. So what can parents and students alike do? Well, invest in what? We think that means investing in the fundamentals of how these technologies work, not just being able to use, but really getting to grips with the how and why often involving the maths. In quantum computing and artificial intelligence (Machine Learning) that means linear algebra. We think early exposure to linear algebra would make maths more appealing and would certainly ease the transition to learning about QC and AI.

There are a few topics we think students could learn today that will help them navigate the future.

  • Learn at least one conventional programming language. (C, Python, ➡ Julia, Haskell, BASIC…)
  • Get to grips with basic maths and logic as the foundation for everything else. You can learn from textbooks or more interactive services such as ➡ Brilliant (QZ gets commission for purchases).
  • Understand Linear Algebra. Vectors, Matrices and how to apply these will lead to better understand Machine Learning and Quantum Computing.
  • Familiarity with the Qubit (the quantum equivalent of the bit). Brilliant have a dedicated Quantum Course (QZ gets commission for purchases) for this.
  • Communication skills. The softer side of the learning pathway. This is super important.

You can follow a recent article from BBC on this topic and visit the TKS school here. For courses on Quantum Computing check out our section here. If you want to delve further go into our Quantum Book section.