Japan Makes Coding Mandatory for All Students Starting in Elementary School

Soon, Japanese elementary schoolchildren like these will be taught computer programming

Like many countries, Japan is facing a dramatic shortage in the number of available high-tech workers. To address this situation, the country has decided to make computer programming classes mandatory for all students, starting in elementary school. Students will be mandated to study coding for their entire educational experience, every year from 5th grade through high school graduation in the hopes of filling the high-tech worker shortfall and catching up with the rest of the world.

See more on mandatory coding classes in Japan

Starting in April 2020, Japan takes a big step by launching a huge educational initiative designed to create a new generation workforce with much-needed critical digital technology skills, by making computer programming classed mandatory, starting in elementary school. From this point on, all students from 5th grade through high school graduation will receive instruction on coding.

Japan’s education ministry has already approved the appropriate textbooks and the curriculum has been created to link up with computer skills programs already in place in Japan’s middle schools. Additionally, Japan will make a formerly elective “information” class in high school, compulsory in 2022 with more detailed coding instruction incorporated.

Digitally Drawn Polygons; Blinking LEDs

Meanwhile, as part of their mathematics instruction, 5th-graders will learn to create programs that will generate digitally drawn polygons and make LED lights blink on command. The goal, according to a report by the Nikkei, is to “instill the fundamentals of using code to handle information, as well as to teach logical thinking through trial and error.”

“Teachers are facing growing burdens, so for now, it’s only realistic to give students a feel for the beginning stages” of programming. What’s required is “classes that get students interested.”

Yuta Tonegawa, head of education nonprofit Minna no Code (“Code for Everyone”)

Japan’s High-Tech Worker Shortfall a Problem

A study by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) in 2016 forecast that Japan will have a shortfall of nearly 600,000 highly skilled tech workers by 2030 relative to the needs of industry. That same year, a government council on industrial competitiveness “vowed to make programming mandatory in grade school education,” the report said.

Japan, it seems, is playing catch-up, as the U.K. made a major commitment to mandatory computer programming training in 2014. Now, all school kids in the U.K. receive this training from age 5 to age 16. Same in South Korea which made programming mandatory in elementary and middle school all the way back in 2007.

How About Here in the US?

While many school systems in the United States have brought technology into their schools, computer programming is not a mandatory core curriculum here. There is programming instruction taking place – a fact to which I can attest as my son is a 4th grade teacher here in New Jersey and he teaches programming skills to 4th and 5th graders. But this is done in an elective, after-school class…not as part of their normal, daily curriculum.

Will the US fall behind the world?

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.

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