Coding to be included in China's primary and secondary school curricula

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – China plans to include computer coding in curricula for primary and middle school students to help them learn about information technology and develop digital learning and innovation skills, the Ministry of Education said.

During its ongoing curriculum revision launched early last year for compulsory education - first to ninth grade- the ministry made a preliminary decision to include coding in information technology courses, it said in a statement posted on its website last week.

It was responding to a call by a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee this year for coding to be included in China’s basic education to nurture digital talent.

The ministry said improving students’ IT skills is important and it has issued guidelines to promote and regulate coding education.

Many normal universities, which train teachers, have opened majors in IT education to cultivate teachers who can teach coding to students, it said, adding that it has asked local education authorities to make early plans to train IT teachers to be adept in coding.

The State Council released a guideline in 2017 requiring schools to incorporate coding in computer courses. It also encouraged the development of interesting learning tools for coding education.

Chongqing Municipal Education Commission issued a notice in 2018 requiring primary school students to have at least 36 hours of coding instruction from third to sixth grade, with the same requirement for middle school students from seventh to ninth grade. Each school should be equipped with at least one full-time coding teacher, the notice said.

Learning coding was not designed to encourage students to become programmers, but to cultivate their abilities to think logically and solve problems, it said.

Since 2018, Zhejiang province has listed information technology as an optional subject in the national college entrance examination, with programming an important part.

Chinese parents who realise coding is one of the best ways to prepare children for a future that requires tech-related skills are enrolling them in coding classes provided by after-school training institutions.

Mr Jiang Chun, father of a fourth grader in Beijing, said he signed up his 10-year-old son for an online coding cram course in March and it has become one of the boy’s favourite after-school courses.

His son took the course for two hours twice a week, and Mr Jiang said he had spent around 10,000 yuan (S$2,036) on it.

“As the country seeks to integrate artificial intelligence into everyday life, I think learning coding can equip him to deal with a future that is embracing new technologies ever more closely,” he said.

Coding could also help his son develop coordination and logical thinking, and another benefit was that he would be less likely to become addicted to online games once he knew how to develop them, Mr Jiang said.

The private sector has helped fill the gap in coding training. Shenzhen-based Codemao, which was founded in 2015, said it has provided online graphical programming courses to more than 10 million students aged between 4 and 16.

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