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Should learning to code start with the children?

By Sheng Chuyi (People's Daily Online)    08:22, April 02, 2019

“Elon Musk began learning to programme at the age of 9. Mark Zuckerberg started at 10. Bill Gates wrote his first software program at the age of 13.” These words come from a commercial used by many coding institutions for children in China. In recent years, an increasing number of parents are enrolling their children in extracurricular coding classes, hoping to give them a head start in today's online and computer-centric world.

Robots dance as children look on during an exhibition in an amusement park in Handan City of north China's Hebei Province, Aug. 18, 2017. Children in vacation are attracted to learn more about the AI machines. (Xinhua/Hao Qunying)

According to the “China’s Children Programming Industry Research Report” released by iResearch, as of October 2018, the market size of the children's programming industry was worth about three billion to four billion yuan (446 million to 595 million US dollars), and the user scale was approximately 15.5 million people.

With the expansion of this niche market, the emerging industry of children's programming education has received considerable financing. According to public reports, in 2017, nearly 20 coding education institutions for children in China received funding. The most prominent institution is Codemao. After receiving 120 million yuan (17.82 million US dollars) in Series B financing in November 2017, Codemao got a new round financing of 300 million yuan (44.55 million US dollars) just six months later.

Children's interest is the priority for learning

In 2013, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and other organizations launched the Hour of Code campaign in the United States, which to date, over 100 million students have tried worldwide. In 2014, the UK implemented a national computer course that included coding for children as young as five years old.

“If you don't understand programming, you will be the new illiterate. If you are unable to code, you will lose your ability to survive.” With the rapid development of information technology, some parents are suffering from “scientific anxiety”.

In July 2017, the State Council of China issued the document of the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. More AI-related and coding courses are expected to be set up in primary and secondary schools, to gradually promote coding, and encourage the entire society to participate in the development and promotion of coding software and games.

In 2017, Zhejiang Province issued a new college entrance examination policy, which stipulated candidates' elective subjects, including ideology and politics, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology and technology, which contains general technology and information technology. In the college entrance examination, students can choose three of these seven subjects. Programming is included in the category of technology.

However, when several parents were interviewed, it became clear that “scientific anxiety” and tough entrance exams were not the main reasons that parents enrolled their children in coding classes.

Zhang Xuesha, a Beijing citizen, told People’s Daily Online that the reason she signed up for a programming class for her child is to help with her child's concentration, logical thinking, and creativity.

“The content of the coding class must be suitable for the children's learning stage. Destructive encouragement does not have good effects. Therefore, the best way is to follow the children's cognitive growth,” Zhang emphasized.

Many parents regard LEGO training as a stepping stone to programming training. Another Beijing mother, Jiang Yanhui, told People’s Daily Online that her child Hanhan began LEGO classes at age 4.


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(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Liang Jun)

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