Estonia is a country in Europe with a population of 1.3 million people, and it's the first country to realise the importance of teaching kids to code! In 2012, Ave Lauringson launched ProgeTiiger, a project to enable all schools to incorporate coding lessons for kids starting the first grade. This was possible because Estonia is one of the most tech-savvy country in Europe, with one of the first fully e-enabled government. It is also the birthplace of the tech giant, Skype. With this project the government is hoping to create a stronger relationship between the future generation and the understanding of technologies, computers and the web.
Ave Lauringson started the idea with the thinking that computers are not just things but are the source of opportunities to create and be a smart user of technology. Their ultimate goal was not to make everyone a computer programmer, but to teach computer programming like math or other compulsory subjects that will be of use regardless of what they want to be. In her own words, Ave Lauringson said: "We want to change thinking that computers and programs are just things as they are. There is an opportunity to create something, and be a smart user of technology".
This is why Estonia incorporated different aspects of technology education (programming, robotics, 3D graphics, computer science, informatics etc.) which schools have added into their school programme and approximately 67% of Estonian schools have one or more optional lesson in their programme.
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East Vs. West
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Estonia is now esteemed to hold one of the most innovative model of education in the world thanks to their project. They use practical activities to make learning fun for kids as young as 7. They don't start of with the advanced languages like C++ and Java. They instead start with different activities that teach them logic and the mathematics behind programming. A lot of other countries have also started to teach code to students in schools but they are mostly limited to students in highschool, and there are very few programs that are designed to be suitable to kids. A setback of starting late is that most teenagers fail to develop any interest in these programs, whereas it is easier for children to gain interest in something at a younger age.
Moreover, Lauringson isn't the only one trying to make coding a fundamental part of education, the creator of Raspberry Pi, Eben Upton has been very vocal about the need to teach coding to kids at a young age and has encouraged other countries like US to start programs to teach kids in primary schools as well.
This is because a lot of the people in the tech industry realise how crucial it is to hold at least a basic understanding of the inner workings of the technology we have become so used to of. And they want to debunk the belief that coding is just for the people interested in the field of computer programming. "We don't teach music in school to make everyone a concert violinist," says Clive Beale, director at Raspberry Pi Foundation, "We're not trying to make everyone a computer scientist, but what we're saying is, 'this is how these things work, it's good for everyone to understand the basics of how these things work. And by the way, you might be really good at it.'"
Estonia has set computer literacy as one of highest national priority and now countries like Singapore too are planning to follow it's footsteps. Most countries are now technology friendly, but are progressing very slowly in terms of keeping education at par with the fast-growing field of technology.