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Estonia To Teach Programming In Schools From Age 6

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the hook-them-early dept.

Education 307

An anonymous reader writes "With the launch of the Raspberry Pi, computers are becoming affordable again for the younger generations. Now what we need is kids learning about computers in greater detail, including what the hardware is inside the box, and how to create rather than just use software. Estonia looks to be the pace-setter in this regard, and has just announced that it is introducing computer programming learning for all children attending school. By all, I mean from grades 1 through to 12, meaning children as young as 6 will be writing their own code and producing software. The program is called 'ProgeTiiger' and is being introduced by the Estonian Tiger Leap Foundation as a pilot scheme to some Estonian schools this year. Next year the program will expand, adding programming groups for older kids who want to carry on activities outside of the classroom. Eventually it looks as though ProgeTiiger will become just another standard part of the curriculum, just like math and language studies are."

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307 comments

Bravo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228339)

That's the way to do it.

Age 6 is a little bit too early, methinks (1, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#41229435)

Teaching programming to a 6-year-old kid is a little bit too early

The art of programming is not about programming itself. It's much more than that.

The person who does the programming must first have a grasp of logic, and it's not an easy task for a 6-year-old kid to grasp the concept of NOT, OR, AND, XOR and all those shits yet

Especially for a kid who is still in a state of "blank sheet".

If you want to teach a 6-year-old programming, you just gotta hafta "pre-programmed" that kid beforehand

In my own experience, I started to teach my kids simple logic when they were age 3 - simple concept of logic, away from all the computer jargon, in every-day-life setting

By age of 4 to 5 my kids could easily grasp why this thing won't work this way, and have the ability to think of new ways to solve (simple) problems by themselves

Only by then I started them with the good-old LOGO language

Putting a kid at 6-year-old through the programming routine might sound nice, but I am afraid of the unintended consequences - that the kid might be psychologically scarred for life

My 2 cents
 

Why not? Alan Kay might ask (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228393)

They say if you put a kid in front of a Logo turtle, tell him to type RIGHT 90, FORWARD 100, LEFT 80 and within an hour he is programming and not realizing it.

I've known people who were not technical or noted for their intelligence in any way who managed to do quite well in LOGO. I don't know if Estonia will use Logo, but teaching programming from a young age is certainly viable.

Re:Why not? Alan Kay might ask (1, Insightful)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 years ago | (#41228915)

A lot of what is wrong with software today is that too many people think that "RIGHT 90, FORWARD 100, LEFT 80" is programming.

Applying a Band-Aid on someone's finger is medicine, too, but if someone stuck a serrated knife up your recturm, I think you'd probably want someone whose training was a lot further along than RIGHT 90, FORWARD 100, LEFT 80.

Real programming begins when the turtle impacts the wall and you have to figure out how to handle it properly.

Re:Why not? Alan Kay might ask (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229013)

Real programming begins when the turtle impacts the wall and you have to figure out how to handle it properly.

That's right!! If you can't code it out in hand assembled binary, it's not Real and has no real world use! And Punch Cards all the One True Interface, it's the only way to get close enough to the metal!! And everyone who ever started programming based basics is an idiot! That includes you, because I was born knowing how to program! I have a direct neural binary interface, it's an adaptation.

Re:Why not? Alan Kay might ask (3, Interesting)

fsck1nhippies (2642761) | about 2 years ago | (#41229109)

While I agree with the idea you present, I have to say that there is nothing wrong with teaching someone to address a problem step by step. The need to learn how to handle the turtle, before they can understand how to handle exceptions.

Really what they need is work with something like LOGO through 4th grade, basic through 6th, Pascal to 8th, and c++ until they graduate. It should be mandatory for all. Worst case scenario is you have a guy in his garage building a machine that builds a rake to give to the machine he programmed to clean up leaves. It could be worse.

No matter what, LOGO sucks but it is better than having every high school student wishing he wrote Angry Birds (Wheres the TM), while flipping burgers. It cant hurt!

Re:Why not? Alan Kay might ask (1)

narcc (412956) | about 2 years ago | (#41229371)

Why does Logo suck? It's Lisp with a Turtle and usually has a very friendly immediate mode.

What would YOU have 6-year-old kids use?

Re:Why not? Alan Kay might ask (1)

narcc (412956) | about 2 years ago | (#41229343)

At the age of 6, it's really all they can do. And, yes, it's a great way to introduce computer programming -- they could even toss REPEAT in to the mix.

You want conditional branching? Great, but that can come later. You know, when they've developed the cognitive capacity to actually understand and use those concepts. (See: Piaget's theory of cognitive development)

Great Idea! (4, Funny)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | about 2 years ago | (#41228397)

I can't honestly say I've endorsed a whole heck of a lot of ideas from Estonia, but this is a great idea. I only wish I could travel back in time and encourage my teachers to teach me and my piers programming at age 6. Then I'd probably be able to figure out this compiler error I'm getting right now.

But seriously, I hope that the U.S. adopts a similar program ASAP.

Re:Great Idea! (1)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | about 2 years ago | (#41228407)

Peers! Damn spell check!

Re:Great Idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229131)

Piers Anthony is a good author. He finished this book [amazon.com] for 15-year old Robert Kromwell who died before the story was complete. It's a decent read.

Re:Great Idea! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228491)

I'd stick a serrated knife in my own rectum before I let my child learn to program instead of playing with other kids or learning sports.

Re:Great Idea! (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | about 2 years ago | (#41228567)

I'm not sure you'll have a lot of luck getting people to take advice from somebody who would stick a serrated knife in their own rectum before doing basically anything other than sticking two serrated knives in their own rectum.

Re:Great Idea! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228815)

I'd stick a serrated knife in my own rectum before I let my child learn to program instead of playing with other kids or learning sports.

Why do you imagine the two are mutually exclusive? I, in fact, started programming at the age of six. My "best friend" at the time would come over and we would program together on my C64. He now works for Google; I'm working on a PhD in Aerospace Engineering. I had other friends who weren't into programming so much, but would still get together for games.

Have you seen kids today? Computers and cell phones are a background part of their lives - like dish washers and microwaves, and I think that is a very good thing. Would you say, "I'd stick a serrated knife in my own rectum before I let my child learn how to use a microwave", would you? There are programs and games out there that are both social and educational. (In fact, participating in open source software can even be both social and educational, although that wouldn't apply to most six-year-olds.) While I don't think they should entirely replace other forms of social interaction or educational instruction, I do think that deliberately withholding that from children will put them at a serious disadvantage. (You should, of course, teach your children how to be safe in an online setting, just as you should teach your child how to be safe "IRL" at a park, etc.)

Re:Great Idea! (0)

Seumas (6865) | about 2 years ago | (#41229029)

The difference is that nobody is proposing that we start teaching children how to build and maintain a washer, dryer, or microwave at the age of six. Unless we're just going to extend education to the age of thirty or later and teach absolutely everything that could ever possibly be taught, let's stick with real cross-use knowledge in grade, middle, and high school and focus on specific education after that. Teaching these very specific (often very *vocational*) things at young ages is simply a waste all around.

Re:Great Idea! (1)

kenh (9056) | about 2 years ago | (#41229285)

Are you saying the technology they teach first graders today will be obsolete before they enter 6th grade? And the technology they learn in 6th grade will be obsolete by the time they graduate HS, and the same for what they learn as freshmen in college?

But just think, if they drop out before the 5th grade they'll be able to get jobs programming turtles to draw pictures on the floor... What? That isn't a career?

Take a look at a graduating HS senior this year - how many versions of MS Office have they worked with since 1st grade?

Re:Great Idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228589)

I can't honestly say I've endorsed a whole heck of a lot of ideas from Estonia, but this is a great idea. I only wish I could travel back in time and encourage my teachers to teach me and my piers programming at age 6. Then I'd probably be able to figure out this compiler error I'm getting right now.

But seriously, I hope that the U.S. adopts a similar program ASAP.

I don't know if I'd be too comfortable in my boat knowing the piers have become not only self-aware, but Turing-complete!

Re:Great Idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228795)

Instead you'll extend civics class to focus on the importance of intellectual property and that any idea you have will enfringe on someones patent and even if it doesn't it won't stop you being sued into the ground by a troll.

USA? (0)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 2 years ago | (#41228409)

I'm sorry, but as an American this is embarrassing. With the amount of money we spend on education this is one of many things that we should have done a long time ago.

Good for you Estonia!

Re:USA? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229023)

What amount of money you spend on education??
The education budget is cut every year, to make room for more war and keep the tax breaks for the rich.
And the higher education is just vastly overpriced.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the USA is waaay down on the list of how much education you actually get and on the price/performance ratio.

Now I feel like I should say something good about US education, and how you can easily turn it around since you have the abilities... But I honestly can't think how... I just hope it gets better for you guys. I really do.

Re:USA? (0)

fsck1nhippies (2642761) | about 2 years ago | (#41229255)

What amount of money you spend on education??
The education budget is cut every year, to make room for more war and keep the tax breaks for the rich.
And the higher education is just vastly overpriced.

If you think that War is what the money is spent on, you are confused. Tax breaks for the rich? What do you consider rich? what is middle class?.... Anyway, I do agree that higher education is vastly overpriced. What do you suggest we do about it? Lets start by cutting the professors salaries. I am sure that is where the majority of tuition goes?

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the USA is waaay down on the list of how much education you actually get and on the price/performance ratio.

Now I feel like I should say something good about US education, and how you can easily turn it around since you have the abilities... But I honestly can't think how... I just hope it gets better for you guys. I really do.

I bet it is at the bottom or close. You say that we have the abilities, but offer no options as to how to turn this around. Normally I would be offended and say that you are just trolling, but deep down I agree with you. We do have the ability, everyone does. There is just nobody driving the car at the moment.

Re:USA? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 2 years ago | (#41229437)

What amount of money you spend on education??

According to this link, about $800 billion [usc.edu] , which is by far more than any other country on the planet. Or $7700 per student. Which is over 30% more per student than the number two spot.

The education budget is cut every year,

That's bullshit perpetuated by which ever political party that is not in power at the time. The amount of planned increase to the education budget may get lowered, but it still gets increased. This is often times reported as a savings when it comes to other spending. The budget for project X was supposed to go up by $200 million, but we only increased it by $150 million. Look at how much we cut. The spending still increased, just not as much.

to make room for more war and keep the tax breaks for the rich.

Or hand outs to the poor. Blah, blah partisan bullshit.

And the higher education is just vastly overpriced.

I couldn't agree more.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the USA is waaay down on the list of how much education you actually get and on the price/performance ratio.

Indeed. Scroll down on that link I provided above.

Now I feel like I should say something good about US education, and how you can easily turn it around since you have the abilities... But I honestly can't think how... I just hope it gets better for you guys. I really do.

Agreed. It's pretty scary that our future leaders will be dumber than ever and still have command of one of the largest nuclear arsenals and well equipped militaries on the planet.

Re:USA? (1)

fsck1nhippies (2642761) | about 2 years ago | (#41229191)

We did... Well at least in Maryland. We worked with Pascal from 8th grade on if we wanted. I did four years of the high school level computer science and spent two of them tutoring other students.

Re:USA? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41229499)

Where is the research that says children of six have the requisite cognitive capacity to program?

Finally a country that gets it! (0)

mcvos (645701) | about 2 years ago | (#41228411)

I'm a big proponent of teaching programming at school. I'm already happy if they start around 12 (around when I started, and actually got some programming lessons at school), but this is even better!

I'm also looking into ways to teach my son to program at an early age. I wasn't planning on starting at 6, but now I wonder why not.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (2)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41228465)

Not only there's no good reason not to, doing otherwise (not teaching) is IMHO a travesty.

To me, personally, not being able to program is akin to being illiterate. Paper, writing instruments and books and other printed matter are widespread, it'd make one look real bad not to be able to use them. Same goes for computers, and I don't qualify using prepackaged software without any ability to script anything being real use.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228569)

To me, personally, not being able to program is akin to being illiterate.

Because you measure intelligence according to specific knowledge and not according to capability. Worse, you measure intelligence according to specific knowledge you have. That is, you're a narcissist.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (1)

vipw (228) | about 2 years ago | (#41228829)

Illiteracy isn't a measure of intelligence. It is a measure of specific knowledge, as you say. There is even a commonly used term for people who are familiar with operating a computer: computer-literate. Did you forget to read the comment you replied to?

I don't think anyone expects computer literacy to include basic programming concepts (such as loops and conditionals), but it's not absurd to suggest it should.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228929)

Illiteracy isn't a measure of intelligence.

True. But people who think programming is a basic skill people should learn are over-valuing a skill they have and under-valuing skills other people learn, because they think their own skills are more valuable. That is, they are narcissists.

I don't think anyone expects computer literacy to include basic programming concepts (such as loops and conditionals)

But that's what both the grandparent and the FA suggest. Programming, not computer literacy.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#41228895)

To me, personally, not being able to program is akin to being illiterate. Paper, writing instruments and books and other printed matter are widespread, it'd make one look real bad not to be able to use them. Same goes for computers, and I don't qualify using prepackaged software without any ability to script anything being real use.

For most people, computers are still TVs with typewriters attached. Every so often someone figures out how to bolt another gadget on to them (camera, phone). People who don't know how to turn on a computer, navigate the filesystem, launch applications etc. could be considered illiterate. Beyond that, its like saying that anyone who doesn't know how to tune their car's engine is incapable of driving.

That said, programming is not particularly difficult if there is a reason to know how to do it. Knowing how to program is no more special than being literate.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (3, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41229183)

For most people, computers are still TVs with typewriters attached.

Yes, and this is a bad thing.

People who don't know how to turn on a computer, navigate the filesystem, launch applications etc. could be considered illiterate.

And they would be functionally computer illiterate. A bad thing when so much of our lives involves these devices.

Beyond that, its like saying that anyone who doesn't know how to tune their car's engine is incapable of driving.

Driving is separate from maintenance. Someone who can't drive can't pass the test to get their license. Someone incapable of maintaining their car spends lots of money at the mechanic or ends up destroying it far earlier than it would have otherwise failed.

Knowing how to program is no more special than being literate.

Do you realize how important that makes programming? In the first world we have literacy rates well above 99% and for good reason. Anything less damages a nation as a whole and makes it unable to maintain a functional economy.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#41229329)

Driving is separate from maintenance. Someone who can't drive can't pass the test to get their license. Someone incapable of maintaining their car spends lots of money at the mechanic or ends up destroying it far earlier than it would have otherwise failed.

Tune, not maintain. There is a difference. Still, not knowing the difference does not preclude someone from driving their car in the factory configuration.

The point is that using a computer does not require the ability to program it. The only reason that computers are so ubiquitous these days is that programming skills are not required to use them.

It is more practical to concentrate certain skills among a few functionaries.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229337)

A COMPUTER IS NOT A CAR!

A car is purpose-built for one specific job.

The whole damn point of a computer is, that it is completely and mathematically proven generic and usable for *every* information-processing job. No exceptions.
But to have it do a job, you have to *program* that job. In other words: Tell it what you want it to do. Which requires only easy skills that every human can do and does all the time, without knowing it.

By only using the information processing equivalent of a car, which happens to be a program somebody else did for a computer, you lose the WHOLE DAMN POINT of having a computer in the first place, and are actually never using the computer. You just use the program. A fixed-function appliance again.

And that is extremely sad, because it is such an extreme waste of power and freedom, it is literally crippling not to have it.
It is exactly like monkeys who never learned how to use tools. In times where everybody was a monkey, that was OK.
But now we're all humans, and not knowing how to use tools is not acceptable. You won't get anywhere. You're a cripple.

And now we have advanced to the point, where the same is true for computers. It is just such a step downwards in terms of development, you have to be considered a mental cripple.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (1)

serbanp (139486) | about 2 years ago | (#41228547)

I'm also looking into ways to teach my son to program at an early age. I wasn't planning on starting at 6, but now I wonder why not.

Maybe, just maybe because at age 6 the brain's ability to handle abstract concepts is not yet developed? Teaching programming to a handful of 6 year olds who show precocious ability is one thing, imposing the same on all kids this age is beyond stupid.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228577)

Agreed. The only programming I could conceive of teaching 6 year olds is letting them play around with LOGO.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (4, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41228667)

Maybe, just maybe because at age 6 the brain's ability to handle abstract concepts is not yet developed?

There's no basis for this statement, unfortunately.

Teaching programming to a handful of 6 year olds who show precocious ability is one thing, imposing the same on all kids this age is beyond stupid.

Perhaps we should stop teaching basic math to 6 year olds as well? Math itself is pretty abstract, as it's all numbers and not anything physical. At least with programming they can see the results of their efforts play out before them.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 2 years ago | (#41228981)

Well, shit, let's teach them woodworking so they can see their results even faster.

Let's avoid turning everything into a vocational school so we can pump out bots.

Re:Finally a country that gets it! (1, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41229077)

Well, shit, let's teach them woodworking so they can see their results even faster.

Woodworking doesn't have nearly the impact on your daily life that computers do.

Let's avoid turning everything into a vocational school so we can pump out bots.

You act as if that's the sole purpose of teaching programming. Nice myopic thinking there.

It's about time (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41228413)

I have for a long time thought that basic programming skills are a necessary part of basic literacy education. It is irresponsible *not* to give everyone the tools they need to leverage computing technology to the fullest extent. Just as widespread adoption of reading, writing and arithmetic skills have enabled vast progress, the use of computers as tools to solve customized tasks that require some programming is the next logical step. Just as you can't go about in your life only filling out form letters, similarly you can't do everything efficiently using canned software without writing a single line of code. For most folk it'll probably mean writing scripts in VBA or similar, but it's still a skill that can aid quite a bit. Going through any sort of natural science or engineering curriculum without using programming from day one is IMHO unthinkable in this day and age, yet it's quite common, especially among incoming students.

Re:It's about time (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41228473)

You are absolutely correct. Programming is not solely a tool for IT professionals any more than math is solely a tool for professional engineers. Everyone has problems they could automate, if they knew enough to think about automating them.

Re:It's about time (1)

narcc (412956) | about 2 years ago | (#41229411)

Hear, hear!

The only objection I can see is from those who think that being able to program makes them special somehow or feel that it would threaten their jobs in some way.

I'll bet that's at the root of most of the negative comments here.

boo (4, Insightful)

buddyglass (925859) | about 2 years ago | (#41228461)

Computer programming is not such a fundamental area of study that it deserves to be elevated to the level of "math", "reading" and "writing". To a large extent this is a zero sum game. To teach programming in primary school necessarily crowds out something else. History? Foreign language? Music? Some subject other than "computer programming" is getting the shaft.

Re:boo (4, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 2 years ago | (#41228495)

Computer programming is not such a fundamental area of study that it deserves to be elevated to the level of "math", "reading" and "writing". To a large extent this is a zero sum game. To teach programming in primary school necessarily crowds out something else. History? Foreign language? Music? Some subject other than "computer programming" is getting the shaft.

Hopefully it's religion.

Re:boo (1)

buddyglass (925859) | about 2 years ago | (#41228565)

I wouldn't support a recurring religion course, but a semester-long comparative class at the secondary level seems appropriate and quite useful. Cover the basic theology (including variants) and rough history of the major players and devote some time to the more influential minor players.

Re:boo (4, Insightful)

shitzu (931108) | about 2 years ago | (#41228985)

Programming actually teaches more than just programming computers. It teaches you to build structure into your thoughts. I personally think learning foreign language or music or other subjects will in fact benefit from programming basics.

BTW i am Estonian, but did not have such luck - ran into programming in late teens.

Re:boo (1)

Threni (635302) | about 2 years ago | (#41229057)

Learning to speak Estonian? You're better off learning C, Java etc.

Re:boo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228681)

I see some value in learning how to apply math concepts. Beats memorizing multiplication tables

Re:boo (3, Insightful)

nebulus4 (799015) | about 2 years ago | (#41228699)

I'm going to disagree. Programming will teach kids the logic and logical thinking. Thus, I'm pretty sure they will excel in other subjects, especially math.

Re:boo (1)

CQDX (2720013) | about 2 years ago | (#41228817)

Programming doesn't *teach* logic, rather it *requires* logic to make a non-trivial program work.

Re:boo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228999)

Programming doesn't *teach* logic, rather it *requires* logic to make a non-trivial program work.

That's like saying playing soccer doesn't *teach* skill, rather it *requires* skill to succeed at a higher level.

Semantics. Do programming, get better at logical thinking - FACT.

(Not to mention, that it's total bullshit what you wrote - of course it teaches logic).

Re:boo (1)

CQDX (2720013) | about 2 years ago | (#41229161)

Not semantics. By logic, I meant logic as in the classical sense, also referred to as critical thinking. Or to put it another way, focus on the fundamentals first, build a good foundation on knowledge and critical thought, then programming becomes that much easier to learn a little later in life. Not to mention that the types of problems as student can solve with a program are much more interesting.

Re:boo (2)

narcc (412956) | about 2 years ago | (#41229493)

The problem, of course, is that despite all the elementary teaches who put "develop critical thinking skills" in every other lesson plan, no one has a good way to teach or otherwise develop those skills in their students. Go ahead. Hunt down a primary or secondary teacher and ask them if their lessons help students develop critical thinking skills. The reflexive answer should be "yes". Then ask them how and watch the color drain from their face. (The point? Students aren't developing critical thinking skills because teacher's don't have the tools at their disposal to foster the development of those skills in their students.)

Computer programming, however, requires students be able to think critically. You can't really teach it, but programming is a great way to force the development of those skills in students.

The skills that they learn in their programming class will be automatically applicable to every other subject, such is the nature of critical thinking.

This is why teaching computer programming is important. It wouldn't matter if they never touched a computer again.

Re:boo (0)

buddyglass (925859) | about 2 years ago | (#41229291)

Consider the type of programming they're likely to do at that age level. They're not going to be drawing truth tables or learning boolean arithmetic. It's more like "making a turtle move around the screen".

Re:boo (1)

CQDX (2720013) | about 2 years ago | (#41228797)

I agree. Time better spent on music or a foreign language as those are easiest to pick when very young AND it requires a good instructor. Programming can be learned later in life, like junior high and beyond and it's easy to learn on your own with a computer and few tutorials and strong motivation. At least that's how we old guys did it when we were kids and they didn't have computers in school and you had to make friends with the kid whose dad bought the first Apple ][ or TRS-80 Model I in the neighborhood.

Re:boo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229475)

Firstgraders already do get foreign languages and music lessons in Estonia. Yes, I know, it's unheard of in the great land of McDonalds.

Re:boo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228939)

Well... "math" or "reading" don't need to be mutually exclusive from each other or programming. Computer programming could be integrated into a math/logic/reading curriculum. Kids could learn to read and do math while doing something interesting and useful with their reading and math. Sounds like a good idea to me...

Re:boo (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 2 years ago | (#41229157)

Computer programming is applied math, and requires at least some level of reading. It'd probably be easier to get kids interested in maths if it came in the form of computer programming, rather than pen and paper. Although I'm not sure what level of programming you can do before you're functionally literate or numerate (kids at age 6 are frequently neither)

Re:boo (1)

buddyglass (925859) | about 2 years ago | (#41229247)

Although I'm not sure what level of programming you can do before you're functionally literate or numerate (kids at age 6 are frequently neither)

Yet another reason not to start at age six.

Re:boo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229289)

How about if they called it "symbolic logic systems" or even just "problem solving" ? That any better? IMHO it's also one of the best ways to learn mathematics, based on the anecdotal evidence of my own mathematics grade going from C to A* within months of getting interested in programming.

Bottom line, it develops the ability to think in ways which have broad applicability in virtually every science, maths or engineering based discipline.

Just like learning about history isn't only useful to future historians, programming isn't only useful to future programmers.

Why? (3, Insightful)

RNLockwood (224353) | about 2 years ago | (#41228471)

Why would one want all kids to know programming? We don't require all kids to know automotive design or repair, nor manufacturing techniques for flat panel displays, nor cellphone antenna design, etc.

Programming uses math? Well some arithmetic, surely, but usually not much else.

Perhaps some sort of a fun introductory course might be good as it might spark interest in programming for some students, though.

Re:Why? (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 2 years ago | (#41228499)

Why would one want all kids to know programming? We don't require all kids to know automotive design or repair, nor manufacturing techniques for flat panel displays, nor cellphone antenna design, etc.

Programming uses math? Well some arithmetic, surely, but usually not much else.

Perhaps some sort of a fun introductory course might be good as it might spark interest in programming for some students, though.

An introductory course for 6 year olds? What a great idea! If only TFS said exactly that.

Re:Why? (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 years ago | (#41228639)

Yet my high school taught automotive repair, welding, had several after/before normal classes farm related courses small engine repair and more. But when it came to computer science they had "graphic design" read coral draw/photshop and "computers" which translated to Mavis Beacon teaches typing and introduction to Microsoft office. Real computer science needs to be taught in our schools not "click the big blue capital W to write, and the big green capital E to make a chart, and big blue lower case e to browse the inter-webs of the world wide net"

although I do have to give them credit they had an excellent biology program including a course in molecular genetics.

Re:Why? (2)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41228645)

We don't require all kids to know automotive design or repair

In a society as dependent on cars as the US is, that's actually a huge negative. It makes it easy for people to be taken advantage of, and makes repairs that would probably cost a handful of parts and an hour or two of labor a rather expensive ordeal.

nor manufacturing techniques for flat panel displays, nor cellphone antenna design

Ridiculously obscure.

Computers, however, cannot be avoided. They dominate modern life and the only way to escape them is to exit civilization altogether. Computer programming, along with basic finance (and the math necessary) should be baseline subjects rather than optional excursions. It's about breaking open the black box and laying its contents bare, brushing aside mystery and confusion and replacing it with knowledge.

This is, of course, contrary to the modern push to put user-immutable black-boxes in everyone's hands.

Re:Why? (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 2 years ago | (#41228967)

Then I demand that a full four year medical course be taught in grade school, because students will some day need to know about medicine and health care in this modern society. And since they'll need to know how to handle money and possibly run a business, I demand that we start with a full MBA and CPA course in kindergarten.

Re:Why? (1)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41229113)

Then I demand that a full four year medical course be taught in grade school, because students will some day need to know about medicine and health care in this modern society.

This statement is so fucking stupid I can't even begin to comprehend how you came to conclude that teaching the basics of programming (and, by connection, how computers function) is anywhere near equivalent to what you just said. It's almost as if you want children to be ignorant of how computers work.

And since they'll need to know how to handle money and possibly run a business, I demand that we start with a full MBA and CPA course in kindergarten.

And you pile on the stupid. Teaching kids how to handle money probably would be a fucking awesome idea later in their education. But much like everything else, you have to start somewhere. Why not when they're learning to spell and do basic math?

Oh, right, because we're going to be totally ridiculous about the implications and not think at all.

Re:Why? (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#41228657)

It is a good chance to exercise their analytic and problem solving skills. Imagine a generation of children who could form their opinions about things like economic and environmental policy by testing theories against simulations. . .

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228941)

Yeah, I'm sure they'll get right on that. It won't go in one ear and out the other like every other lesson.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

marcansoft (727665) | about 2 years ago | (#41228723)

We don't require all kids to know automotive design or repair, nor manufacturing techniques for flat panel displays, nor cellphone antenna design, etc.

That's the root of the issue: that programming is seen in the same light as design and manufacturing, in other words, something that only professionals with years of training should do.

It's not. Most computer users could benefit from having some (very basic) programming knowledge. For example, my dad does software translation, and he doesn't really know much about "proper programming" (I did try, unsuccessfully, to get him to learn Python), but over the years he's worked with a number of scripting languages to automate parts of his job. These days, he tends to use AutoHotkey scripts, but a number of years ago he also used Windows analogs of shell scripting and sed to automate a number of tasks, including munging (ASCII-based) document formats in various ways. He understands the basics (variables, while loops, etc.) and can use them with a simple language to make his life (much) easier.

What could Joe Average Computer User do if he knew a bit about programming? For example, he could write a userscript to fix up a gripe in website that he visits frequently. Or write a batch file or shell script to automate a daily task. Or add some more complex logic to a spreadsheet. Or write a tool to organize his music collection in exactly the way that he wants it. Or write out a long mathematical calculation into a script so that he doesn't have to type it into a calculator over and over.

Keep in mind that the steepest part of the learning curve for an average person is figuring out the initial concepts (and the younger you start, the more likely it is that you'll "get it"). Once you know the basic constructs of computer languages, you can quickly pick up on any special-purpose language. Anyone who knows, say, Javascript (or any half-decent BASIC dialect for that matter) should be able to breeze through the Python tutorial.

Now, say, teaching Software Engineering to everyone would be a silly idea. Most people couldn't care less about MVC, or proper object-oriented design.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229117)

Maybe because a computer is THE universal information processing machine, and you use it by *programming* it?

Maybe you forgot, that using a virtual appliance (nothing else is most current software) that happens to run on a computer is not actually *using* the computer. Which is no different than using the same functionality in the form of an actual fixed-function hardware device. Which is insulting to the literally unlimited power (by being Turing-complete) of programming a computer.

In terms of information processing, there is no point in learning anything else.
And if there were such a machine for matter/energy processing, there would be no point in learning anything else about processing anything physical either.

It is the *one* thing absolutely everybody has to learn and is extremely useful to *absolutely everybody* with a brain that can process information too.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229275)

Programming is not like automotive design, or manufacturing flat panels, or anything similar

Programming is fundamental. The fact that we didn't know that until the 20th century is just an artefact. A growing fraction of our environment is made up of programmable substrates and the software running on them. The desk phone in front of me, the LCD display, the Hi Fi next to that, a television, a printer, a microwave ...

Programming is _more_ fundamental than reading and writing because those are just technology, a longer lived version of the answering machine or the washing mangle. Technologies go obsolete. Did you know many educated Chinese people can't write Chinese any more? They forgot how, because they use Pinyin input systems on their phone or laptop, and a pen or pencil doesn't have a Pinyin input system, so they just stare at the blank piece of paper, trying to dredge up memories of primary school lessons. They can manage simple scribbled notes, of the sort you might leave on a fridge to remind a flat mate to buy milk, but they can't write down most of the words in their vocabulary. Chinese writing is becoming an obsolete technology.

Anyway programming isn't a technology, it's a fundamental idea like statistics or justice. Specific programming languages are technology. Specific computer architectures, approaches to problem solving, and so on, all technology. But the idea of programming survives them all, just as the idea of justice survives the fall of any specific justice system. So yes, we should teach kids about programming.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229323)

You're given very specific classes vs a very generic one. All those courses you mentioned require (drum roll please)... programming!

Maybe it's because I started programming around 6-8 years old that I'm a little biased, but with tech continuing to become such an important element of our life I see programming as becoming mandatory to surviving in this world. If not for writing the code, then for understanding the limitations and ablities of our new digital frontier.

Re:Why? (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about 2 years ago | (#41229425)

Because its about 5-10 years from being a REQUIREMENT in jobs.

but wait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228487)

is catbert in charge of hiring the teachers?

Creativity (1)

joelwhitehouse (2571813) | about 2 years ago | (#41228517)

If you teach all the constructs of English grammar and effective Word Processor use, you get students who can correct the misuse of "they're", "there" and "their", express their ideas, and save a file. But it takes more than an understanding of grammar to produce novelists, journalists, poets, and technical writers. I hope that Estonia will not stop at teaching "programming" alone but that their curricula will encourage creativity.

Computer skills ok- not programming though (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228525)

I've got a bit of experience teaching introductory programming skills (basic html) to younger kids (in a past life). I have to say that I think this is a really bad idea. Targeting kids this young isn't going to work. I think teaching foreign language skills in the 6-10 age range would work better. Then when they are a bit older teach coding skills. I think it's a bad idea because most kids aren't able to comphrend the concepts at the younger end of the spectrum. Reading comphrehension is also a major issue in the 6/7/8 year old age range. There are some 8 year olds who can do it although many can't. Waiting until the age of 9/10/11 to start would be better. By 5th grade I think teaching it on a daily basis would be a really smart move even if it was just with something like scratch.

Raspberry Pi is 3 steps backwards. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228561)

Is this a joke?

If you want to be a great programmer, there is only one platform that matters and that is Apple OS X and iOS. Anything worth doing on a computer is worth doing CORRECTLY and today this means learning Objective C and writing applications for OS X or iOS. To insist that students adopt these ridiculous joke/toy "raspberry pi" computers is to actively HURT their ability to learn advanced computing concepts. Kids don't need to learn how to edit X windows files and compile kernels and install package managers on useless Linux boxes, they need to learn to write applications that can actually DO STUFF and MAKE THEM MONEY. For fuck sakes, open source is a FAILURE, Linux is a FAILURE and now you fucking freetards want to impose your FAILED ideologies and your FAILED technologies on the next generation of kids? Fuck that noise.

Think different.
Think BETTER.
Think Apple!

Re:Raspberry Pi is 3 steps backwards. (1)

Roobles (1880882) | about 2 years ago | (#41228949)

There's nothing stopping kids from learning and writing Objective C applications from within Raspberry Pi. GCC is capable of compiling them, and Linux is capable of running them. They can then use what they have learned at a later time in life, using Apple's proprietary libraries, to "make them money" as you wish.

I'm sure many schools will be thrilled to hand out Apple devices to six year olds, just as soon as Apple makes one that costs less than $30.

Re:Raspberry Pi is 3 steps backwards. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228975)

So you're proposing they teach six year olds to pick fruit?

Fine if used appropriately (2)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#41228587)

I can see the benefit of using computer programming as a method of teaching kids to approach problem solving and apply these skills in ways that are likely to seem relevant to their generation.

If they think they can raise a generation of super-nerds, good luck with that. Programming isn't hard if you are wired correctly. If you are better suited to other work, learning programming will only ever make you a mediocre programmer who could have been an elite something else (granted, those alternatives aren't always feasible).

I started coding around 4-6 myself (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#41228655)

Because I was writing code from magazines and computer manuals, I didn't know what I was doing, but I got a familiarization with symbols. I realized at an early age algebra was really important to programming, and I gave extra effort into these courses. What is even more important than coding though is math. There should be(if there isn't already), a ton of early age math applications for kids to learn how to count and do addition/subtractions. The one that came for the TI-99 I played repetitively until I mastered it, and it gave me a jump start in math.

Re:I started coding around 4-6 myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229149)

I think you are confusing calculus and the other FAIL one does in school with math [maa.org] .

Which is like confusing color-by-the-number and learning how to hold a paintbrush with actual painting.

The saddest part is, that I was naturally good at math, and did it for fun, but got told is school to "stop playing around" and “learn your math". Which fucked-up my natural sense for math forever.

I just hope Lockhart finally gets his stupid book done, which he promised us a long time ago, and which supposedly is a learning book that teaches actual math.

Eastern European Data Havens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228679)

They've discovered that with the internet, they can compete with much larger, more successful countries for precious IT jobs. The rate of data access in North America is the equivalent to toenail fungus for some of these countries. While teaching all kids programming from age 6 might be a bit silly, we are losing ground hand-over-fist and should be embarassed with ourselves, (or at least with the governments / oligarchies who are preventing us from catching up).

Teaching toddlers computer science engineering. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228691)

Kids certainly have the aptitude to pick of the basic concepts. There is a kickstarter project to teach toddlers CSE concepts. Tinkermite Tablet.

STUPID ESTONERS !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228697)

Look to your left !! Look to your right !!

Better to teach race car driving !!

Sign of the times... (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 2 years ago | (#41228761)

With the launch of the Raspberry Pi, computers are becoming affordable again for the younger generations.

The world economy is really that bad. When I was 6, nobody had a personal computer. When I was 12, people had $2000 personal computers. When I was 14, my parents could finally afford one of those $2000 personal computers for me to write my school papers on. (Hello Word for DOS.) And today? We're grateful we can buy computers for $35, because otherwise we couldn't afford them.

As an aside, is anybody else amused that buying a keyboard new costs almost as much as buying the Pi itself?

Re:Sign of the times... (2)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41229133)

The world economy is really that bad. When I was 6, nobody had a personal computer. When I was 12, people had $2000 personal computers. When I was 14, my parents could finally afford one of those $2000 personal computers for me to write my school papers on. (Hello Word for DOS.) And today? We're grateful we can buy computers for $35, because otherwise we couldn't afford them.

Your logic doesn't work. The reality is that the cost of computing, as a whole, has dropped to the point that a fully capable system can be had for $35, give or take a keyboard/mouse/monitor. At $35 you can give each child their own unit that they can plug in and do whatever they want, rather than a handful of extremely expensive systems shared across the entire school population.

is anybody else amused that buying a keyboard new costs almost as much as buying the Pi itself?

Not terribly. There's a profit margin on that keyboard that the Pi doesn't have.

Re:Sign of the times... (1)

godrik (1287354) | about 2 years ago | (#41229175)

It means you could include a pi in every single screen and keyboard in the world without too much of overhead. Computing power is really cheap nowadays!

XO (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#41228819)

The OLPC's, meant for schools, included Scratch [mit.edu] (and turtleart and pypy, but for me the the star is that one), so in more countries could had been introducing programming to children for years. It could be a good tool to introduce small childrens to it, as is very visual, almost a toy, but you can dig a lot on it. Not sure in which language or environment will be done in Estonia, but that could be a good approach.

Why wait till 6? (1)

robi5 (1261542) | about 2 years ago | (#41228865)

I just started my daughter, age 5, on Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/). The problem is that she is limited as much by some design choices as by her age. For example, icons and widgets are fairly small to click on; some functions can be accessed by right mouse click (or long left click) context menus; there is no full screen mode, i.e. a child can accidentally switch out of the program; and the worst offense, it requires numerical input. This last one would be easy to fix by sliders: very simple for continuous variables, and the number of dots could be used for small integers (such as number of loop iterations). Otherwise she enjoys it a lot, but I need to unnecessarily attend to any time numeric fields are involved. Anyone know of an alternative that adheres closer to its charter?

Re:Why wait till 6? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229237)

It shouldn't be hard to change the code yourself. It's just a different view/controller. The model stays the same. Like replacing the widgets by drop-in replacements.

Lego mindstorm and programming (1)

kye4u (2686257) | about 2 years ago | (#41228871)

Although I applaud the initiative of Estonia, I think that using the lego mindstorm would be a better first step to introducing your kids to programming. Here is why. (By the way, I am a grad student who is working with kids at a local middle school with the mindstorm)
1) Motivation: Many kids are naturally excited about seeing stuff move and do stuff, and therefore robotics is a very nice programming application for kids.
2) Logic: Mindstorm GUI has a nice interface that is easy for kids to use because the GUI uses visual logic blocks. It is pretty much like flow diagram that the kids can build to represent the logic. This flow diagram is of course is compiled into real code behind the scenes.
3) Problem solving skills: Kids can do really neat experiments with the mindstorm such line following and wall following. These experiments are fun and allow the kids to really fine-tune their problem solving skills.

Re:Lego mindstorm and programming (1)

kye4u (2686257) | about 2 years ago | (#41228927)

Of course, mindstorm costs a bit more than the Raspberry pi

Why do we need kids doing this? (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 2 years ago | (#41228911)

Sorry, I don't buy the modern day hype about how kids need to learn programming and typing and hardware at the age of six. That shouldn't be what school is about. Focus on the basics. Otherwise, why not spend years of this precious educational time teaching them about how to build and maintain a car engine? And if that, why not a boat engine, too? And why not how to repair a washer and dryer? And a lawnmower? And how to sew? And woodworking? And how to perform surgery? And how to run the board at a radio station?

That isn't to say all of these things are not worth knowing, but lets steer away from the trendy bullshit that sounds good and focus on the fundamentals that help when you decide to pursue these more specific things on your own. This is another fantastic example of what's wrong with education in many places. Rather than focus on critical thinking and analytical skills, we focus on specifics that will ultimately only serve a handful of people and do nothing more than look nice on some brown-nosing administration executives resume when he trots out his pet project.

Re:Why do we need kids doing this? (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#41229383)

I am absolutely against turning education in to job training. OTOH, I think that computers can be used to learn the basics.

Granted, this is probably just a scheme to attract "job creators" with the promise of a buzzword-compliant Estonian work force.

Not just about programming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41228947)

Learning how to code requires logic, something is great need these days all over the world.

Programming at 6? Why not critical thinking? (1)

Kittenman (971447) | about 2 years ago | (#41229115)

Widen it - teach the kids to think. Now maybe programming is a part of that but if it's a wider scope ("Now class - let's all watch this shampoo advert and then talk about what it really said") it would be more acceptable and more useful.

Strange as it seems, not everyone wants to program. And a nation (correct me if wrong, Estonia) doesn't really want a nation of programmers. A nation does want a nation of thinkers though. (well, most of the time).

Resources? (1)

jickerson (2714793) | about 2 years ago | (#41229241)

I wonder how they will provide adequate instruction for all students once they try to expand this pilot program. I assume a lot of the curriculum will be video based, but you still need competent teachers in the classroom to answer questions.

Programming is the new manufacturing... (4, Insightful)

jdbuz (962721) | about 2 years ago | (#41229333)

To want to "bring the manufacturing jobs back" is a lost cause. Programming is the new manufacturing and what Estonia is doing is brilliant. More and more everything in our daily lives is governed by software. Estonia is a small country and choosing this as their national specialty is going to prove monumental to their long-term success.

Programming is math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41229361)

Programming is math. Whether or not young minds should focus on for-loops or fractions is something that experts in child development are going to have to figure out. That said, I don't think it'll hurt them. I wouldn't try to hit them with stuff like lambda though. AFAIK, the average child can't handle certain kinds of abstractions until they're a bit older.

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