The rapid development and dilemma of children's programming education

AlphaGo defeated Ke Jie and Lee Sedol, Toutiao, Meituan, DiDi and other Internet platforms, using algorithms to accurately match content and services with a large number of users. All these achievements are inseparable from programming. Bill Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg and former US President Barack Obama are all advocates of programming education. "One of our biggest development opportunities in education is to teach more children to learn programming." In the future of the United States, we need children to master these skills."

With the increasing popularity of big data, algorithms, AI, etc., the children's programming education institutions for cultivating young people's programming thinking have emerged. The heat of capital has promoted a round of financing and enrollment booms. Concerns and scrutiny have followed, and practitioners and parents who are among them are also facing more choices and thinking.

What are the concerns about children programming education? How should parents and education institutions deal with it?

Rapid development and invisible concerns exist together

Children's programming refers to the 3 to 18-year-old young children to learn programming languages, through visual graphical programming, code programming and robot programming to develop operational skills, logical thinking skills, computing power, etc., learning programming to connect various subjects.

China's domestic emphasis on programming is increasing day by day, and favorable policies continue to increase. In 2017, the State Council issued the “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan”, which requires the establishment of artificial intelligence related courses in the primary and secondary schools, and gradually promote programming education.

In the same year, Zhejiang Province took the lead in including programming in the Zhejiang college entrance examination system; in 2018, Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou and other cities have included programming in the special examination project; and Chongqing issued the "Notice on Strengthening Programming Education in Primary and Secondary Schools", adding Children's programming to the public school teaching system.

Along with this is a lot of business opportunities. In terms of market size, the children's programming market is currently estimated at 4 billion yuan, with a student size of 15 million. In the next five years, the market size is expected to reach 30 billion yuan, which is regarded as "the golden track of K12."

Relevant data shows that more than 200 companies have invested in children's programming education. As of August 2018, the total financing of children's programming track reached 782 million yuan, the highest in years. New Oriental, TAL Education and Gaosi Education, the three major education giants, and Internet company NetEase, have also begun to lay out the children's programming market. After three years of accumulation, by 2018, Codemao has exceeded 3.2 million students in the country. In the second quarter of 2018, the number of enrollments has increased by 512.8% year-on-year. The 2018 Children's Programming User Data Report shows that in 2018 there are hundreds of thousands of students have completed 1,070,675 programming works.

However, the fierceness of capital and the expansion of the enrollment scale have not concealed the shortcomings of children's programming infrastructure: the shortage of teachers, the same curriculum, the lack of uniform evaluation standards, and the inability to objectively evaluate the teaching results.

The shortage of teaching talents is the biggest problem faced by the industry. Universities and even normal universities do not have programming courses, and they cannot export professional talents. High-level programming talents tend to work as higher-paying programmers. Computer-based students are not only lacking in teaching experience, but also unstable in choice. Quality teacher resources have become a common problem faced by the industry.

The same teaching content between institutions is also a big dilemma. Chinese domestic institutions generally adopt the scratch building block teaching method, which is programmed through intuition and splicing, so that children can gain a sense of accomplishment in programming. However, some professionally-born parents think that this can only be regarded as a kind of programming enlightenment. It allows children to gain interest in programming and cultivate some programming thinking, but they can learn again in the third grade or learn at home. It is too early to be educated. It’s too early to learn it at 6 years old which is generally promoted in the industry.

The lack of a unified evaluation standard is the main reason why parents are hesitant. A netizen posted in the forum that she spent nearly 30,000 yuan on the 9-year-old son for children's programming and learn the scratch building block programming method. After 40 lessons, she found that the child had no idea of the expertise of counters, accumulators, functions, binary, and decimal. But the children of relatives who learn the same programming know it very well. She feels that she has spent so much money and time and has not made much progress.

The development of artificial intelligence has become an irreversible trend of the times. Under the dual benefits of policy situation and consumption upgrading, the market with great potential calls for the arrival of solutions. The above three points are not only the reasons for the development of children's programming, but also the key to breaking through in the industry.

The pain point is also the way out, the development is unstoppable

Fanaticism and chaos are signs that the industry is at an early stage, and the existence of problems means the solution itself.

The first is the parents' understanding of programming education. There are data showing that 37% of children have stronger logical thinking skills after learning programming, 29% have improved their autonomy, and 24% have become more confident. In addition to the improvement of logical thinking ability, children's programming education can also bring about changes in thinking style and personality.

The improvement of the evaluation criteria is a gradual process, and the piano and English education have gone through the same stage. The main body of the standard setting can be a government educational institution that introduces programming into local education, or an entrepreneur who uses a refined hierarchical curriculum system to expand the market, finds the unique intrinsic value of children's programming, and designs a curriculum system for sustainable learning. It is both a challenge and an opportunity for development.

The lack of teachers' resources is the key point that all organizations need to solve. College students signing contracts, paying high salaries, and refining training have become the common choice of children's programming institutions. Take Codemao, All-dream, Miaocode as examples. Many of All-dream's teachers come from 985 and 211 colleges. Codemao has established a bachelor's degree or above and graduated from 985 and 211 colleges as the application threshold. Miaocode combines the reality with a unique approach, does not make the mandatory requirements of "graduate in computer science", pays more attention to the practical ability of teachers, and will include the psychology majors or education majors in normal colleges in the teacher reserve.

Well-known investors and former CCTV host Zhang Quanling also mentioned. Her son finished four programming classes and was able to write games like Plants vs. Zombies. Later, her son compiled a game in which two people attack each other. Zhang Quanling, who is a mother, has been unable to win. After reading the background code, she found that the basic value was changed. "At that moment, I suddenly realized how terrible a child who could program!"

The penetration rate of children's programming education in the United States reached 44.8%, which is only 0.96% in China. Behind the difference in number, one is its broad development prospects, and the other is the necessity of strategic promotion of programming education.

"In the next ten years, 50% of work may be replaced by robots." It is no longer alarmist. The development of the Internet and the rise of artificial intelligence have made programming thinking one of the skills that need to be mastered by current or future practitioners. Programming education is not to train future programmers, but to let children understand the logic of thinking and the way of life in the Internet age.

The industry is about to undergo major changes, all decisions need to be rational

The first-line fund has been laid out in the early stage, and the venture capital will transition from the “see team” stage to the “look at the product” stage. In the next 3-5 years, the children's programming market will continue to grow rapidly, but the stronger and weaker market pattern will be more prominent.

After the previous stage of grabbing the track, in 2019, children's programming will usher in the brand marketing year. In addition to ground promotion, subway outdoor advertising, online exposure and other means, large-scale channel resources including schools are also very valuable. The increase in the cost of obtaining customers has made it imperative to release refined products.

The impact of the policy's positive degree on the market is also obvious. More programming is included in the college entrance examination project or the bonus project, which will promote the industry to enter the spurt development. If it only stays in the “encourage development” stage, the children's programming market will still have a long way to go.

Intensified market competition, rising customer acquisition costs, and unclear policy progress require entrepreneurs to maintain a rational and prudent attitude. Companies that want to enter will face double competition from the environment and products. Providing differentiated quality products and attracting C-side campus resources will be possible to break out.

For parents, if they only see programming hotspots and many people are learning, fearing that their children are falling behind, it is not wise to force children to learn without thinking. Children's talents are different and their hobbies are different. Programming is not good for every child. Parents should make judgments based on comprehensive understanding and analysis.

If the child is really interested in programming, parents can choose the appropriate course of study according to different ages. If child is young, they can choose scratch as the programming enlightenment. The older one can choose a real "language" to learn real "programming" and develop their child's programming potential.

The weak points of teachers, the door of the public school market, and the improvement of the penetration rate of the C-end market are still the problems that practitioners face. Capital and markets that tend to be calm will gradually screen out qualified competitors. Parents must also proceed from the child's characteristics and needs, and rationally choose for his growth.

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This is an article from 36Kr, translated by Xu Yin.