Well into an era of information and communications technology, Britain, the United States and other developed countries are moving to teach computer science to students in primary and secondary schools. They find it necessary for everyone to understand and learn computer programming at an early age, with computer code being the language of networked life. It will not be enough to learn how to use MS Word and other application programs.
Korea is jumping on the bandwagon. The government has decided that instruction on programming will start in middle schools next year and that elementary school curriculums will include it as a required course in 2017. Beginning in 2018, high schools are set to adopt it as an elective. A detailed plan is due in September.
Experts argue it is necessary to start instruction on programming at the primary school level, as is the case with math and science. They say that this is because it helps people better understand how networked computers run the world ― ranging from powering mobile phones to managing nuclear power plants, running banks and keeping all public and commercial transportation on track.
Moreover, those exposed to in programming at an early age, they say, are more likely to pursue advanced studies without too much difficulty when they study computer science at the undergraduate or graduate level.
But providing early education on programming is easier said than done. One of the primary difficulties schools are certain to encounter is securing people competent enough to teach the subject.
The Ministry of Education is reportedly considering providing a short period of programming training to teachers who did not major in computer science and recruiting them as programming instructors. But this would be little different from permitting math majors to teach physics after completing some training.
A better approach would be to recruit those have majored in computer science at engineering colleges and have received training in teaching skills and those who have majored in computer science at teachers’ colleges.
Software writing, which an education policymaker says will be no less important than English in the future, should be included among the subjects that are tested for in admissions to universities. Otherwise, it will be difficult to keep middle and high school students interested in software writing.