Estonian schools teach kids to code from 1. grade

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ProgeTiiger. (English: Programming Tiger)

I’ve now learned, that Estonia is launching the education program ProgeTiiger  (english: programming tiger), with the goal to turn teach 100% of all students at public schools to code. This starts in first grade, when the children are 7-8 years old. Teachers are getting trained at the new skills and the private sector, who is extremely happy about the initiative, is highly involved.

Read the press release here (Estonian): http://www.tiigrihype.ee/et/uudised/programmeerimine-jouab-iga-koolilapseni

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As for now, its only a pilot project with a handful of schools, but later all schools can become a part of the program. The plan is for every public school in the country to join the project.

But why Estonia?! Ain’t that just a small insignificant Baltic country full of corruption and vodka? Its even one of the poorest nations of Europe, with a gross domestic product per capita is just €13,194 ($16,500), half that of nearby Sweden (€27,039). According to The Wall Street Journal, Estonia produces more start-ups per head, than any other country in Europe. They even had four out of 20 finalist in the SeedCamp, entrepreneur-mentoring program, including the winner GrabCAD, a social network for engineers which has 10% of the world’s mechanical engineers registered.

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Poor Estonian guy. But not for long. Its the fastest growing economy in Europe!

The Estonian public system is digitalized to the bone. They have e-health, e-voting and digital signature. And then there is Skype. Though it was founded by a swede and a dane, it was built by Estonians.

Unfortunately, the press release says nothing about HOW they intend to do this. Since coding is a complex process, it’s not just a walk in the park for 7 year old kids to understand.

I’ve earlier described, how visual programming languages could be the way to do this. They even proved useful in kindergarten!

  • For visual learners, Scratch is very good.
  • For geometric learners (is there such learning style) LOGO should do fine.
  • For the “hands-on” kinesthetic learners, LEGO Mindstorms, a programming tool for making LEGO machines and robots.

The brain behind all these coding tools is Seymore Papert, the founder of MIT Media Lab and the learning theory “Constructionism“.

  • After the kids have tried one of the above mentioned tools, they might be able to create 3D games with Alice, which is very simple.
  • And also the Android App Inventor is easy to get into and based on visual programming.

Don’t forget, that many of the best app developers are 15-16 years old (some, like Thomas Suarez, a lot younger!). It’s never to early.

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Thomas Suarez, 12-year-old successful app developper

More links about the Estonian and similar projects:

http://classroom-aid.com/2012/12/02/learn-coding-like-learning-new-languages/

http://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/how-to-initiate-kids-or-anyone-in-coding/

http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/11/teaching-kids-programmers/

http://maban.co.uk/47

http://www.pixelh8.co.uk/educational/

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