Most Indian coders say they are self-taught

Better late than never.
Better late than never.
Image: EPA/Jagadeesh NV
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Outside India, one in three kids typically begin learning to code before they turn 15. In India, only one in 10 do.

In a country that churns out over 1.5 million engineers each year, that means Indian children are playing catch up with the rest of the world right from the beginning, according to data from HackerRank. The technical recruiting platform surveyed over 10,300 developers from India and another 29,000 from 40-plus countries around the world to get to these numbers.

“I don’t think there is lack of awareness in today’s world, and certainly more and more kids will start taking up coding early as the years go by,” HackerRank co-founder and CEO Vivek Ravisankar told Quartz.

Schooling blues

A major reason for India’s developers blooming later can be traced back to its schools. Until a few years ago, eight in 10 Indian schools didn’t have computers. In fact, many government and private institutions don’t even have access to power. These issues are slowly being ironed out, even if at a slow pace. Meanwhile, the Narendra Modi government recently began setting up tinkering labs in school to further STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and to encourage innovation.

“Coding education still hasn’t been completely incorporated in the Indian school curriculum,” Ravisankar said. “Basic introduction to programming should be included in the curriculum to spark more interest among students,” he added.

In India, over two-thirds of the developers are partly self-taught, the HackerRank data show. Only 37% of Indian coders picked up their skills through a combination of school and self-learning, compared to half of them globally.

Old is sold

Indians also tend to stick to the older programming languages like C (80%), Java (75%), and C++ (65%).

“Most engineering colleges in India teach you C, C++, and Java. This could be a reason why more developers in India are proficient with these languages,” said Ravisankar.

Gunning for traditional languages also means fewer Indians are proficient in newer ones like Ruby, Scala, Pascal, and others, compared to their international counterparts. Yet, they have a firm base from which they can diversify as and when needed.

“Having strong foundations in older languages is always a spring pad to learn new languages. Hence, while it may be beneficial to be well-versed in newer languages, there may not be a clear disadvantage to those who aren’t,” Ravisankar said.

A closer look at the jobs market through HackerRank’s survey of over 3,000 employers shows that coders—even those with the older skills—aren’t headed for irrelevance yet. Indian employers still mostly seek coders skilled in traditional languages. But for each language, the number of developers available to fill a position outstrips the number of vacancies.