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The countries introducing coding into the curriculum

Natali Vlatko
Computers image via Shutterstock

It’s been dubbed the 21st century addition to the curriculum – now a growing number of countries are introducing programming as part of the school syllabus. Students as young as five years old are being schooled in coding for the future.

Computer science used to be a field reserved only for tertiary education, but is now becoming widely adopted for primary and secondary school curriculums. For parents eager to get their kids involved in IT early, many countries are starting to introduce coding as a foundation skill alongside reading, writing and arithmetic.

The Institute, a reporting body for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), has stated that the rise in adoption of coding in schools stems from digital literacy being viewed as an essential component of modern education. Some countries are also wanting their children to better understand software.

On top of teaching code being a great platform to interest kids in pursuing IT careers, an open letter from the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, and other influential tech firms hopes that programming classes in schools will prevent a predicted drought of job-hunters with the appropriate industry skills.

A plethora of interesting, creative jobs all depend on a degree of coding ability. Whether analysing healthcare data, designing security software or creating special effects for movies, coding is the red thread that runs through Europe’s future professions.

England and Europe leading the pack

England became the first country in the European Union to mandate computer science classes for all children between the ages of 5 and 16. Their age will determine exactly what they’ll learn, with topics ranging from algorithms, debugging code and lessons in programming languages such as Java.

Broken up into three key stages, the English coding curriculum will culminate in students learning simple Boolean logic, working with binary and a closer look at hardware. Throughout each stage of the syllabus students will also be learning about computer and internet safety.

In Italy, the “Programma il Futuro” project was designed to bring coding to primary schools. The three year strategy introduced pupils to the IT world via “a training programme that goes beyond initial digital literacy and makes youngsters aware of the potential of the new technologies and players actively involved in their development”.

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Further preparations are underway in Italy to introduce digital education at the elementary level with aims to have so-called “computing logic” in 40% of primary schools by 2017.

Up in Scandinavia, 2016 marks the year that Finland will introduce a course of study in computer programming that will becomes part of the core syllabus. Due to the varied skill levels of Finnish teachers in their ability to teach the basics, the Finnish Ministry of Education will be relying on private sector cooperation in the initial stages.

Independent fund Sitra, reporting to the Finnish government, claims that the “future will be built by those who know how to code”. Programming is now being viewed as general knowledge in Finland, where many believe that coding is a qualified 21st century addition to basic education.

Other countries embracing this 21st century approach include Estonia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal.

Asia and the Pacific

The news from Down Under regarding a recent school syllabus shakeup sees the introduction of a new digital technologies curriculum for students as young as 10 years old. In one of his final acts as Education Minister before moving to the Industry, Innovation and Science Portfolio, Federal Minister Christopher Pyne signed off on an endorsement by the state’s education ministers to push for greater attention on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at the elementary level.

The Australian Government will be investing $12 million AUD into four STEM education initiatives:

  • The development of innovative mathematics curriculum resources
  • Supporting the introduction of computer coding across different year levels
  • Establishing a P-TECH-style school pilot site
  • Funding summer schools for STEM students from underrepresented groups

While the Labour Party in opposition have held longstanding support for the teaching of digital proficiency as a foundation skill, it’s only under the recent change in the country’s Prime Ministership that the initiative has found some traction.

Not everyone in Australia is embracing the concept however, with Patrick Keneally of The Guardian refraining from “drinking the ‘coding in schools’ Kool-Aid”.

Still in the Southern Hemisphere, Singapore has been recognised as planning to introduce programming lessons to “boost the economy”, with private classes and collaborative efforts between polytechnics already available.

Although coding has yet to be upgraded from an extra-curricular activity on the timetable, some high schools have already started experimenting with Python in the classroom, although its been noted that these schools all belong to the middle-to-upper tier of Singapore’s public education system.

A recent Microsoft survey reinforces the pro-programming plan, indicating that three out of four students in Asia Pacific want coding as a core subject. The study is said to also underscore “the broad understanding amongst students in Asia Pacific about the impact of technology on businesses and society”.

Natali Vlatko
An Australian who calls Berlin home, via a two year love affair with Singapore. Natali was an Editorial Assistant for (S&S Media Group).

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