Mathematics, French and… Programming!


back-to-school-537x402Most people of our generation grew up learning languages like Dutch, French, English and German. It was obvious we were taught these languages as they were spoken in countries adjacent to us. Nowadays, as companies become more globalized, languages like Chinese, Spanish, Arab or Hindi gain more popularity because of the large amount of people that speak them. Governments and parents pressure their citizens and children to learn more languages. But some languages are still often overlooked: Java, HTML, C(++), PHP, Python.. programming languages!

However, not all governments overlook the importance of programming languages. Finland for example, the home of tech companies like Nokia and Supercell, has become one of the first countries to make learning programming compulsory for schoolchildren. Starting from 2016, pupils aged between seven and 16 will the learn the basics of programming in a renewed national core curriculum. This does not mean that children will have to sit through boring programming classes, instead it will be integrated into other subjects. A main focus will be on areas like practical skills, creative working and safe use of technology. A subject like mathematics could for example include assignments where pupils will have to write a script to perform calculations. More exciting subjects could integrate coding by applying it to for example product design or manufacturing.

Finland is not the first country to see the importance of introducing children to the world of coding. Estonia already implemented programming into their education in 2012 and the UK introduced a new computing curriculum in 2014. It is to be expected that many more countries will follow, as the introduction of programming into school curriculums is become an international trend. Technology has become a big part of nowadays’ daily life, with everyone – from pupils to elderly – using smartphones, tables and notebooks to communicate with each other.

What is your opinion about this new international trend? Do you wish your elementary education included programming, 10 or 15 years ago?

– 377578nb

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11 responses to “Mathematics, French and… Programming!”

  1. 372147nh says :

    To start I would like to thank you for introducing this topic. I while ago I wrote a blog about the changing education. Education is becoming more and more digitalized and that maybe in the future we might not even need a professor anymore.
    It is interesting to see where education and technology come together. I believe that back in the days that I went to school it wasn’t necessary to study programming, as it was not as available to us then as it is now. However, I believe that considering the time we live in and the amount of technology we use in our daily life, it could be helpful for children to know the basics of programming. This will learn them more about the safety and privacy issues we know them. Also, it might help them to create something more revolutionary than we have seen until this point. Overall, I thing the government needs to consider to introduce the topic programming into the education program.

  2. 356104sf says :

    I think that it is a good idea to learn some children programing languages. But it should not be a mandatory course and not on an early age. I think it would be a good idea to give children of an age of 14 the option to choose a programming language course on high school. Some children do not want to learn this kind of skills (for example most girls) and it is also not useful for children that will get a non-technical job in the future. Secondly, I think that is better to teach children English on an earlier age and more times per week. Additional, if I am right you have to write in English with the mentioned programming languages, so you need a reasonable level of English to learn those languages. Therefore, I think it is a good idea from a certain age and as optional course.

    • 373666db says :

      I think you underestimate the amount of girls that like programming. There are a lot, and the amount is increasing. There are also enough boys that have no interest in anything technical. Also I have to disagree that it’s not so useful for non-technical jobs. As in the future more and more in our personal lives will be mixed with technology. So it is important to understand technology. Also it will be very useful if you can solve your own phone problems, or TV, laptop you name it. In addition more jobs, even though non-technical, will become more involved with programming and technology. So I believe it is very useful to teach children how to program. If done in a fun, gamewise way, why not start young? That way they will learn it more quickly too.

  3. Jord says :

    I do believe programming should be part of everyone’s curriculum, because it teaches you a certain way of thinking, and gives you a deeper understanding of something so prominent in our daily lives. Programming itself, in any language, is perhaps not even needed. Just a course where the fundamentals, which are universal among programming languages, are taught.

  4. 416837ln says :

    Thanks for the great article! In my opinion, programming should be taught in school from a young age and there are many methods for that. For example, there is a Hungarian tech company called Codie Labs that created a robot; exactly for this purpose. The name of the project is Codie and it is an interactive robot that can be controlled by code on tablets and smart phones so it seems like playing for the children. So they learn the basics of programming without actually noticing it so it becomes second nature for them. Of course as they get better it can handle more complex codes as well. Moreover, there is an other product for the same code learning purposes that is called Robo cube, which is like Lego , but once the creation is built out of the little cubes , it can be moved by simple codes. I think these are the best methods to teach programming and they will be often used in the future, hopefully in the public school system as well, so every kid gets a chance to learn the basics of programming.

  5. 371492rl says :

    Recently I came across an article discussing this topic and I thought it was quite interesting.There is some criticism surrounding this matter, that not all children will actually use these skills in their future professional career. Obviously many schools will have to hire IT specialists to teach these kids the skills, thus extra investments will have to be made. So is it worth it, even though many children will choose careers not requiring these skills at all? YES! Because children will not only ‘learn to code’, but this will actually enhance computational thinking. This can be very useful and contributes to many aspects such as problem-solving. However, I do not agree with integrating this with other courses, as this could maybe have an adverse effect on children’s understanding of the core courses? But overall I think this initiative could have great potential and positively contribute to children’s thinking pattern.

  6. 370033ss says :

    Thank you for this blog post. I have recently thought about how helpful it would be, to have some technology related electives during high school. I believe, that in most high schools, the focus is more on natural sciences and not on computer or technology related subjects. I do not believe that these classes should be made mandatory in general, but rather come in the form of electives. There could be one mandatory course to introduce the very basics and to show students what the electives will be about. I think the overall awareness of technology and how it functions should be raised in high school. Personally, I am not sure at what age this should start, but I think it should be integrated into high school education, as well as into more university programs.

    The goal of increasing the understanding of technology and programming is not to get students to sit in front of their computers more often. I think that the biggest risk will be that even more time will be spent on the computer instead of with friends outside, doing sports, or playing an instrument. It will be a challenge for high schools to integrate the more technical courses into existing curriculums. I believe, that high schools will end up offering more electives, so that students can choose courses in accordance with their interest. Whether this will be possible, has to be seen in the future, as more choice in subjects will probably also lead to higher teaching costs.

  7. koenhut says :

    Hi! Answering your two questions at the bottom of the article: First, yes, I am completely in favor of teaching children the basics of programming during primary and/or high school. Second, personally I would have liked this included in my own elementary education. Why? Because learning something is easier at a young age. I think, while we’re entering the digital era, we still can’t assess the impact of lacking behind will have. We probably all have – or know – this grandmother or dad that barely knows how to put the TV on the right channel, let alone using Skype the Ipad to have videochats with relatives. A lot of them have adopted these (and more complexe) technologies, but the ones lacking behind are missing out and I can imagine feel isolated sometimes in this modern world. I’m not saying that possessing programming skills or not will have such a big impact, it merely serves as an example. A more business related example could be the old fashioned sales manager that refuses to enter his orders and sales status in the ERP system correctly, let alone working with a mobile sales application. In the future, not knowing the basics of programming will decrease your career opportunities. Did you know that in The Netherlands there similar plans to develop a uniform so called ‘learning-line’ on programming? Quite a few school have started already actually. Dutch politician and former European Commissioner Neelie Kroes acts as a real advocate on this matter in her role as ambassador of the StartUp Delta Netherlands.

    http://www.frankwatching.com/archive/2013/10/21/programmeren-dat-leer-je-op-de-basisschool/

    http://www.computable.nl/artikel/nieuws/onderwijs/5406767/1277214/leren-programmeren-op-basisschool-noodzaak.html

    http://journalistiek.npo.nl/dossiers/internet-en-apps/290_97810-neelie-kroes-brugpiepers-moeten-coderen-en-programmeren

  8. 377578nb says :

    First of all, thank you everyone for your interesting comments. As some of you mentioned before: the core aim of a programming course would not be to force children into learning a – for a lot of people – unnecessary skill, but to stimulate a certain way of thinking. When programming, you have many different aspects to keep in mind: not only the code itself, but also the design, the usability and the added value of whatever you are creating. Programming is like playing in an infinite sandbox: everything is possible. Letting children play with this sandbox from a young age might let them think creatively or ‘outside of the box’ more easily.
    I just came across a news article from about a year ago, where Neelie Kroes (EU commissioner for digital subjects) says that coding is ‘the language of the future.’ She agrees that children should be learned how to program from a young age already and that governments – the Dutch government in particular – should be more proactive on implementing programming courses. She says that ‘If the Netherlands want to adapt to the 21st century, it requires a mentality change of politicians, directors and citizens.’
    You can find the news article here: http://nos.nl/artikel/711096-kroes-programmeren-als-schoolvak.html

    – 377578nb

  9. 441728zh says :

    I think that this trend is great. I am indeed a bit disappointed that we didn’t lean programming in elementary school or even kindergarten. This is the future and programming should be a second language for all children just like English. In 50 years not being able to program will be just like analphabetism now. And the earlier you start , the easier it is to learn. It is not a dry material as some of you might imagine. If you are older, learning languages probably means sitting in front of a book and memorizing grammar rules, but as a child, it only comes natural. There are already a lot of playful ways to teach programming. Hopscotch is a game (application) that helps them program their own games. https://www.gethopscotch.com/ or Codie a robot teaches the principles of coding. http://www.getcodie.com/

  10. 358455ms says :

    Actually, a little over a week ago the subject ´programming classes in primary school´ was all over the news in the Netherlands. The need for more IT-directed education has been acknowledged by organizations and the government. For example: CodePact, an initiative with 32 public partners, that strives for IT-education for all children(http://codepact.org/). Their ambition is to have reached 400.000 children until December 2016. This involves workshops, company speakers but also extra education for teachers. I think an initiative like this shows the willingness of the government as well as the industry to actively participate in the IT-development of children.

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