Hong Kong experts highlight the usefulness of coding from a young age to enhance international school students’ problem-solving skills

For its youngest learners, BSD designed a number of tools to help children understand the mindset of coding. In essence, youngsters under six are introduced to coding and programming through play. By taking part in interactive “unplugged” activities and team games, the children develop coordination, logic, communication and social skills.

In play situations and scenarios, the children also learn to consider different perspectives and think their way around simple problems. And by using keyboards and an online learning platform, they enhance their fine motor skills.

This provides a strong foundation to become better problem solvers and “digital natives” when they move on to the next stage. There, the youngsters learn to create online content with HTML, the rules of formatting using CSS, and the logic behind programming by building an interactive experience with JavaScript.

“Once youngsters have mastered the fundamentals of JavaScript, that skill is transferable to other coding languages, so they can easily continue their learning journey,” Yeo says. “Success also breeds confidence, along with a willingness and self-belief to tackle even bigger challenges.”

Wendy Wong, the operations manager of Koding Kingdom (Hong Kong), believes that the increasing popularity of classes for younger age groups stems directly from parents wanting to give their children a head start in life. They can see how tech firms have come to dominate the landscape of international business and hear how technology will keep changing the world around us.

Many parents see coding as an essential skill that will give their child a head start when it comes to later employment. Photo: AFP

Many parents see coding as an essential skill that will give their child a head start when it comes to later employment. Photo: AFP

“Our youngest students are five years old, and we teach them computational thinking,” Wong says. “That is all about thinking like a computer, and is very useful for helping students understand programming when they get a little older.”

“From the age of seven, they can begin coding games and designing apps, with a growing appreciation of how everything fits together. Along the way, they develop attention to detail, logical thinking and step-by-step processes.

“Our goal is to train youngsters who code because they want to,” adds Wong. “We help them enjoy the process of learning, and we believe that knowing how to code will bring huge advantages in the future.

“Government, industries and schools are all beginning to realise the importance. What we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” she says.

Without denying those trends, Natalie Chan, the founder and CEO of OWN Academy, has a different take. Her organisation does not focus on coding and she doesn’t believe it is an essential skill, since advances in artificial intelligence will see machines taking over.

“Currently, there is a major skill gap and, yes, there is a high demand for coders,” Chan says. “However, I believe that sooner or later, coders will become the equivalent of factory workers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Coding will turn into a blue-collar job.

“There is a craze right now, but if parents can see beyond the immediate trends, they will realise that every student is talented in their own way and that not everyone is meant to be a coder,” she says. “People say it trains logic and critical thinking, but I think there are a lot of other ways for students to achieve the same outcome.”

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