Coding classes for kids in high demand

Coding classes for kids in high demand
Children attending a coding class organised by Saturday Kids last June. Rising demand has led coding schools to provide regular weekly classes or workshops throughout the year rather than only during the holidays. Children are taught Scratch programming, which is based on visuals and animation.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Forget traditional enrichment classes to learn ballet or play the piano. More children are being sent for computational thinking and coding lessons as parents increasingly see the value in starting them early in a manpower-hungry industry.

Coding schools The Straits Times Digital spoke to said they have seen more parents signing their children up for such classes over the past three years, and that demand continues to grow steadily.

Miss Juliana Ung, who runs The Kid Coders, said: "Parents recognise that coding is useful and important, as the world and future will be driven by more and more computing technology. There is also the appreciation that technology helps children in school work. It's the latest education trend."

Mr David Lee, founder and principal trainer of Computhink, said more parents want their children to be better prepared for the future, especially one in which the Government has envisioned Singapore to be a Smart Nation, where technological skills will be highly sought after.

"There are many parents who understand the importance of programming and they want their children to be prepared for the future," he said.

IT project manager Ng Chee Wee is among those who subscribe to the view. The 43-year-old sent his two daughters, aged eight and 10, for holiday coding classes last year.

"Programming lessons train them in logic and clear thinking. It's a valuable skill that helps in everyday life and any industry that deals with computers; they don't necessarily have to become programmers to benefit from classes," he said.

And parents are willing to pay a premium for the skills coding lessons can impart. Classes can range from $300 to $500 per month for weekly classes, while workshops start from $280 and go up to $1,400.

The rising demand for coding lessons has led these schools, which previously offered workshops during the holidays, to provide either regular weekly classes or workshops throughout the year.

"Registrations have increased sixfold," said Miss Ung. "This year, parents are also committing to holiday workshops much earlier than in previous years, an indication that we'll be seeing more full houses in mid-year and end of the year."

For instance, coding school Saturday Kids was launched in 2013 with only two workshops during the June holidays for about 20 students.

Last June, the number rose to 90 students over nine workshops, and the centre now holds workshops in Scratch programming every month.

Scratch is a programming language based on visuals and animation, making it more accessible to children, unlike traditional languages that are lines and lines of code.

Singapore's demand for coding lessons has also attracted the attention of overseas schools, such as Hong Kong-based First Code Academy.

The centre used to provide coding workshops only during the holidays when it opened here last year, but has started to offer regular lessons due to the increased demand here after its workshops were regularly oversubscribed.

"More young parents think of coding as an essential life skill that prepares their children for the future and have come to terms with the fact that technology is here to stay," said founder Michelle Sun.

Many of the schools that cater to young children teach Scratch. But demand for lessons in more conventional coding languages, such as Python, JavaScript and Ruby, has also increased among older teenagers.

Early Coders Academy, which started in December, runs lessons for teens aged 13 to 17 years, with emphasis on coding competitions and hackathons.

lesterh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 09, 2016.
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