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Rauno 09-08-2012 10:02 AM

Estonia's plan to get 6 year olds coding is a stroke of genius

Estonia, a small country with a population of 1.3 million people, punches above its own weight when it comes to advancements in tech. It was the birthplace of Skype, one of the first countries to have a government that was fully e-enabled, and now it has launched a nationwide scheme to teach school kids from the age of seven to 19, how to write code. The idea isn’t to start churning out app developers of the future, but people who have smarter relationships with technology, computers and the Web .

There are 550 schools in this Eastern European country, and as the new term starts this month around 20 of them will take part in the pilot program. It’s called ProgeTiiger (pronounced, “proga-tiger”), and is a public private partnership that’s getting about 70,000 euros from the government till the end of this year. The money goes to course material for participating schools, whose teachers will also get specialized training. A Finnish IT company called Tieto is advising the program.

This is the brainchild of Ave Lauringson, who found herself talking to a friend about teaching school kids to code in December 2011, while driving cross-country. “In Estonia, kids are walking around with Pampers and iPads, so we see that there has to be some logical movement with tech,” says Lauringson, who acts as project manager for ProgeTiiger.

She knows it’s unusual for a nationwide school system to teach kids about coding at this young an age. “It’s a unique project. [Other countries] want to start programming in secondary school, but they don’t dare to start in the first grade.”

So why start so early? “We want to change thinking that computers and programs are just things as they are. There is an opportunity to create something, and be a smart user of technology,” she says. Lauringson started the project not long after completing three years of maternity leave, and has a son in kindergarden. “He is four years old, and I am thinking of ways to start [him] programming,” she says.

For the youngest students, the new courses won’t be strictly focused on learning programming languages like Java, Perl and C++. Rather they’ll ease kids into the necessary skills for coding like logic, which has the benefit of some overlap with subjects like math and potentially, robotics.

ProgeTiiger is a project of Estonia’s Tiger Leap Foundation, a 16-year-old, government-sponsored organization that promotes technology and science in schools. It completed one of its first tasks, to get all the country’s schools connected to the internet, within four years make Estonia the first country in Europe that had a permanent DSL connection in every school.

“We have only 1.3 million people, so it’s very easy for us to develop these kinds of projects,” says Lauringson. “Estonia is like a little model country to start new projects like this.” She adds a note of caution though: “We dare, but we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

oldfan 09-08-2012 10:23 AM

This is awesome. ESTONIA IS AWESOME.

I will be checking into their materials and stuff. I've wanted to do this with my kids but the linux stuff I've found plus my lack of knowledge didn't work well together.

hellholming 09-08-2012 10:34 AM

great shit. :)

I love Estonia, always have.

No_Mercy 09-08-2012 10:39 AM

Dude that is nuts. Didn't learn that til high school and university. They're learning it in grade school.

You know I was thinking about this. Even if I could go back it takes a certain mindset to be able to program and create aps. It is SOOO tedious like you wouldn't believe. One wrong code and you have to proof it and sometimes even rewrite it.

Estonia is planning for the future as in 50 years from now. All the new age billionaires are programmers. It's mind boggling.

Won't be surprised to see a ton of hackers + entrepeneurs sprout up from there. Tons are from Europe, Asia, and of course Silicon Valley.

I have a friend who just got a couple million dollar funding and they're so adept in social media. It's where I get my tutorial from. Everything...literally everything revolves around social media and now smart phone aps.

Cassette tapes
Smart Phone

This is what's scary. All the old brick and mortar companies have become EXTINCT because of the digital age!

You guys gotta watch Social Network and then Pirates Of Silicon Valley if you havn't already.

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