Child’s play: Coding booms among children

The trend has been fuelled by parents’ belief that coding skills will be essential for Chinese teenagers given the government’s technological drive.

By Author  |  Published: 14th Dec 2019  5:34 pm
eastern Zhejiang

China published its first AI textbook last year, while eastern Zhejiang province listed programming as a subject for entrance examination Wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses and a red T-shirt, an eight-year-old Chinese boy is logged in for an online coding lesson, as the teacher.

Vita has set up a coding tutorial channel on the Chinese video streaming site Bilibili since August and has so far garnered nearly 60,000 followers and over one million views.He is among a growing number of children in China who are learning coding even before they enter primary school.

The trend has been fuelled by parents’ belief that coding skills will be essential for Chinese teenagers given the government’s technological drive.“Coding’s not that easy but also not that difficult at least not as difficult as you have imagined,” says Vita, who lives in Shanghai.

The little boy uses his channel to patiently teach his students who are mostly children older than him and young adults, step-by-step through an Apple-designed coding app called Swift Playgrounds. Explaining as he goes, he sometimes deliberately makes mistakes to help show common errors to avoid.

“When I am teaching, I am learning new things at the same time,” adds Vita. China has been making huge investments in robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), with the government issuing in 2017 an AI development plan which suggested programming courses be taught in both primary and secondary schools.

China published its first AI textbook last year, while eastern Zhejiang province listed programming as one subject for its college entrance examination. For Vita it was his father, Zhou Ziheng, who has been his main support, editing his videos and helping to run the channel. Zhou, a freelance translator of scientific and technology books, started to teach his son how to write codes when he was five years old.