Parents feeling pressure to send young children to programming classes

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/27 18:43:40

Students at the Jingkai No.1 Primary School, Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei Province, are enjoying their robot programming class activities on June 22, 2017. Photo: IC

When Fu Ling gets off work and walks to the subway station each day, he passes by a huge advertisement board urging him to learn more about the children's programming class it is offering.

An IT engineer, Fu has spent countless hours playing Lego with his daughter over the years, as he sees it as an activity that is both a lot of fun and also good for training her daughter's sense of logic. For him, a children's programming class is nothing unusual.

"It is a higher-level class that can cultivate children's mathematical thinking while laying a foundation for their future studies in computer science. I am thinking about whether I should send my daughter to the class," Fu told the Global Times.

Fu is one of millions of Chinese parents who do not want their children to fall behind at the starting line. As more AI-related and programming courses are expected to be set up in China's primary and secondary schools in accordance with a plan released by the State Council to develop AI technology, many Chinese parents are starting to question if they really are as necessary as they are made out to be.

Prompted by the government's policy, a number of private institutions have set about promoting their courses, with some even proclaiming that "those who don't know programming will be the illiterate people of the new age."   

Such promotions cause great anxiety and confusion among parents, who are asking whether such programming courses are nothing more than publicity stunts.

Hopes and fears

"I heard that the courses could teach my child basic knowledge about coding. Maybe in the future it will help him become an excellent IT engineer, a promising and decent job, after grasping the skills of H5 and C++ at an early age. I decided to send him to get a free trial," said a Beijing mother surnamed Dong. Her son is in grade one and when he was 4 years old, he was sent to study Lego courses, which cost over 1,000 yuan ($151) for a course of 20 classes.

Dong admitted that her decision was influenced by promotions from private institutions.

After conducting an online search with the key words "children's programming class", the Global Times found a company that claims to have absorbed 15 years of coding class experience from a US-based listed company and is the country's leading coding class brand.

The company offers "enlightenment coding class," "funny coding class" and "National Olympiad in Informatics class." Its NOI class promises the students a chance to attend international contests, and also claims its grades are recognized by universities worldwide, giving students an advantage when applying for overseas study.

An employee told the Global Times that the company offered students specific classes at different ages. "A lot of parents with students in grade 1 to grade 3 have applied for our class. It is very suitable for the students at that age," said the employee.

According to the latest financial report published on the company's website, the company recruited 1,725 students in the second quarter, 73.5 percent higher than the first quarter.

However, an insider told the People's Daily Overseas Edition that 98 percent of the robot and single chip courses targeting preschool children do not have the proper qualifications.

Space to grow

However, not every parent is particularly enthusiastic about sending their children to coding courses. In random interviews, the Global Times found that many parents refused to let their children embrace these courses at such an early age.

A father surnamed Zhao, who has been involved in coding for years, said that he would never send his child to such a class, as his own experience has shown him that it is far too grueling.

"My daughter is too young to take the course (she is 6 years old). Why wouldn't I send her to study dancing, singing or painting?" said another father surnamed Li.

"Learning coding is not something that we think of as too difficult or mysterious. However, parents should let their children develop in keeping to their own talents. With only a utilitarian goal in mind, the result will definitely turn out to be just the opposite of what they want," Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Global Times.
Newspaper headline: Breaking the code

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