Gone are the days where excelling in traditional school subjects is the be all, end all for Singaporean children. New generation parents are enrolling their kids into coding and computational thinking classes, believing that this will open doors to a wave of new opportunities in the future no matter what their ambition might be.
This emerging awareness towards these subjects reflect Singapore’s digital transformation. The Smart Nation vision, which aims to “harness technology to the fullest with the aim of improving the lives of citizens, creating more opportunities, and building stronger communities” makes coding for kids appear like a compulsory subject for the future, than a hobby to pass the time.
Nurturing co-creators and problem solvers
This digital push is the reason why Nullspace, an educational outfit focusing on robotics and computational thinking, has seen a rise in student signups and revenue. Nullspace’s Technology Director Mr Alan Yong, said part of the exponential growth is “Directly attributable to Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) related school training programmes”.
Code for Fun, an enrichment initiative by IDA and the Ministry of Education allows schools to plan and run a 20-hour programming training over two years. Conducted over a two-year period, the programme uses visual, drag and drop software with robotic kits and microcontroller kits for primary and secondary schools.
Parents are positive of the benefits in learning coding. Mr Koh, a civil servant with the Ministry of Defence hopes his son would gain exposure and self-achievement from the class. “It would be some use to him in the future, hopefully,” he said, adding that he views coding as a “life skill”.
Another parent, Ms Tan Lay Fang, says her son has been attending robotics classes offered by his school since Primary 2, which has exposed him to the basics of computer programming and taught him to solve problems by studying all possibilities. “Learning to code will enable Lucas to better understand the changing world that is becoming increasingly digital, improve on his thinking skills and apply the concepts to solve problems in a dynamic way,” she said.
Start them coding from young
Local startup Jules Ventures saw an opportunity to introduce School of Fish, a course on coding and computational thinking for pre-schoolers, such as those in Kindergarten 1 and 2. Founder Jonathan Chan hopes to fill a niche with his product, especially as these subjects as usually thought to older children.
“Why should those who have the means to send their children for enrichment class have a leg up? Every child should have the opportunity to bridge the digital divide,” he said. He’s optimistic the programme would be able to cut across all demographics, ensuring all children are digitally fluent. Already adopted by two pre-schools as a trial, Mr Chan hopes to bring School of Fish to more pre-schools in Singapore.
Is there an age limit to coding?
Carpe Diem is one of the pre-schools participating in the School of Fish trial. Director Tan Sok Khim found the program interesting and in line with the school’s philosophy to inculcate logical thinking. The school decided to take the plunge to ensure their kids are exposed to tech.
But when asked if there is an age limit exposing children to computational thinking and tech, Ms Tan agrees. “We feel that the program is not suitable for those 3 or 4 years old, as they might not fully understand. On the other hand, the older children can understand instructions and dos and don’ts.”
Nullspace’s Mr Yong concurs that computational thinking will not be beneficial to children who are too young “For kids aged 6 and below, I think such classes might not have real impact as their mental faculties are not fully developed yet. For most kids, it will take several years before their minds can appreciate the various programming constructs and idiosyncrasies.”
For older youths and young adults, there is a growing number of educational opportunities available in Singapore to explore the wonders of coding and computational thinking.
One such education centre is General Assembly, an international pioneer in providing in-demand training for a changing technological economy. They provide award-winning, dynamic training courses in 15 cities around the world, with 25,000 graduates across the globe. Its campus in Singapore organises courses for coding, lean UX bootcamp, design and guidance in forging a career in tech, perfect for youth and young adults looking to expand their skills in a tough job market.
Give your kids a chance to try coding
SMARTgen Asia, the first of its kind event in the region to experience the coolest technology that will shape the way you live, work and play, will be hosting various workshops in coding, web designing and digital filming suitable for kids aged 10 - 19 years old. A perfect chance to gauge your kids interest in coding and computational thinking.
Not only that, your family will get a chance to step inside an exciting new world of Augmented and Virtual Reality, test never-before-seen prototypes and cutting-edge gadgets.
We hope to see you at SmartGen 2018!
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