Coding the new piano lessons for pushy Chinese parents

Updated 2017-12-28 17:00:19 Global Times

Classes in coding, robotics and AI are the latest trend among Chinese parents looking to give their children a leg up.

But experts in the field warn parents that pushing their kids to code is not all it's cracked up to be, The Beijing News reported.

After school classes for students as young as 4 in basic computer science and logic are commonly advertised in Chinese cities.

According to a 2016 industry report, there were 7,600 robotics education groups in China geared toward children, up 15-fold compared to 2011.

While quality of such classes varies, the growing number reflects their popularity among parents, who see such classes as essential for the future job market.

"I don't know what programming is, but I know it's a must for my kid's generation," said one parent.

But experts say that starting children early, regardless of their interest in the subject, isn't necessarily a good thing.

"Small children between 3 and 6 usually do not have the capacity to learn programming as their parents may expect," explained Ren Keyan, a Ph.D. candidate at Beijing University of Technology. "Parents could allow a general interest in the domain, but don't expect them to get the gist of it overnight."

According to a survey by tech news outlet kejixun.com, just half of parents said they enrolled their children in coding and robotics classes to "foster their interest."

Chen Yongwei, researcher at Peking University Center for Market and Network Economy, suggested parents "slow down" and let children develop their own interests.

"It is true that programming is indispensable in our era - the era of Artificial Intelligence," Chen explained, "But there are some skills you can never learn from programming classes."

There's always the possibility AI replaces the demand for programmers in the future, Chen added.

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