Guess who’s winning the brains race, with 100% of first graders learning to code? Estonia announced today that it is implementing a new education program that will have 100 percent of publicly educated students learning to write code.
Called ProgeTiiger, the new initiative aims to turn children from avid consumers of technology (which they naturally are; try giving a 5-year-old an iPad sometime) into developers of technology (which they are not; see downward-spiraling computer science university degree program enrollment stats).
ProgreTiiger education will start with students in the first grade (which starts around the age of 7 or 8 for Estonians) and will continue through a student’s final years of public school (around age 16). Teachers are being trained on the new skills, and private sector IT companies are also getting involved (since they will likely end up being the long-term beneficiaries of a technologically literate populace).
The ProgreTiiger program is launching at a few pilot schools and will soon be rolling out to all general education schools in Estonia.
By contrast, the U.S. public education system has been described as “running on empty” when it comes to tech literacy, leaving young adults unprepared to compete in a digitally driven economy.
In 2009 and 2010, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) conducted a joint study and found that most public schools in the U.S. focus only on the consumer aspects of using computers.
Rather than truly teaching kids about computers, we’re teaching them to see the machines and programs as mysterious tools, offering little or no instruction about “the conceptual aspects of computer science that lay the foundation for innovation and deeper study in the field (for example, develop an understanding of an algorithm,” the report’s findings state.
Already, in hacking competitions around the world, Eastern European programmers are often leading the pack. Estonia’s new bid for comp-sci dominance has increased the odds of that occurrence and will likely help Estonia in the international competition for jobs, capital, and talent in a growing tech economy.
Top image courtesy of Kiselev Andrey Valerevich, Shutterstock