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Plan to make programming mandatory at schools a step to foster creativity - The Japan News

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is essential that computer programming to be taught in schools will lead to improving childrens ability to think logically and creatively.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has decided to make computer programming a compulsory subject at primary schools in fiscal 2020, followed by middle schools in fiscal 2021 and high schools in fiscal 2022.

Programming is defined as creating software programs that work in the way intended by programmers. Many teaching materials are available that can help children learn as if they were playing games, including those that control the motions of characters and building blocks.

At primary school, programming will likely be adopted for such classes as science and integrated study. It is necessary to come up with a proficient plan for children to become familiar with programming and improve their programming skills as they grow older.

In such cities as Koga, Ibaraki Prefecture, and Takeo, Saga Prefecture, computer programming classes are already under way at primary schools in cooperation with businesses and volunteers. It is reported that they have enhanced childrens willingness to learn.

An education ministry panel that is studying the contents of programming classes must use these examples as a reference.

As for middle schools, the ministry plans to change the simple programming currently taught at industrial arts and homemaking classes into one with enriched content. In the case of high schools, the current selective system for programming will become compulsory.

Beneficial also for IT firms

Interest in programming education has been growing rapidly. The Industrial Competitiveness Council, a government advisory panel, has also incorporated it in its growth strategy agenda.

Electronic gadgets, such as smartphones, are controlled by software programs. Programming technologies, like those used to conserve energy in household electronic appliances and in railway traffic control, have spread into every aspect of our daily lives.

If children become familiar with programming at an early stage, it will help foster talented people who will play an active role globally in the field of information technology.

Many other countries have put great emphasis on programming education. Programming was made a compulsory subject in Israeli high schools in 2000. In 2014, Britain introduced a system under which all children aged 5 and older are required to study programming. In both cases, strengthening industrial competitiveness is the main driving force.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced in January a plan to invest $4 billion (about 440 billion) in computer science education. Google Inc. and other information-related businesses are doing their bit to foster personnel by setting up websites to provide education free of charge.

How teachers can acquire the necessary knowledge and teaching expertise will be the biggest hurdle for Japan to clear before computer programming becomes a required subject at school. Many lecture meetings on programming are organized by IT businesses and nonprofit organizations. Teachers skills need to be improved, making good use of the expertise in the private sector.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 17, 2016)Speech

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